Celebrating American Independence

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This week, we are celebrating the 245th anniversary of American independence.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for a resolution endorsing American independence from Great Britain.  For this reason, it seemed that July 2 would go down in history as the date to celebrate.  On July 3, 1776, one of the leading supporters of American independence in Congress, John Adams, wrote to his wife, Abigail, “The Second of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival….It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

After John Adams gave his support to honoring July 2, how did July 4 become the date that Americans celebrate?  On July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, a document that was intended to give the reasons behind the resolution for independence that Congress had passed on July 2.  Since the Declaration included the date of July 4, 1776 prominently, people began to identify July 4 as the date of American independence.  Americans have been celebrating on July 4 ever since 1777.  The American War of Independence went on until 1781, when the Americans and our French allies defeated the British at the Battle of Yorktown.

Members of the Continental Congress believed that America needed its own symbol.  Between 1776 and 1782, there were several unsuccessful attempts to choose a national symbol.  Pennsylvania attorney William Barton suggested the rooster, the dove, or a phoenix in flames.  Barton worked with Charles Thomson, who served as Secretary of Congress.  Eventually, Barton produced a design of an American bald eagle with its wings displayed.  In 1782, Congress asked Thomson to choose a design of our national symbol.  Thomson chose a modified version of Barton’s eagle, which became the front image of the Great Seal of the United States.  For a second national symbol, Thomson chose a pyramid with a watchful eye atop it.  This became the image on the backside of the Great Seal of the United States.   Both the eagle and pyramid images appear on the reverse side of the one-dollar bill.

America’s successful fight for independence continues to inspire people around the world.  Happy birthday, America!