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Fourth of July
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A Brief History of Independence Day
Independence is declared; it must be maintained.
–Sam Houston, American politician (1793–1863)
The Declaration of Independence is America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom and the document upon which the nation’s founding principles were established.
The Declaration of Independence Was Not Officially Signed on July 4
On April 19, 1775, during the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Mass.), the first shots were fired between colonists and British troops, starting the American Revolution. After these first military conflicts, tension between Britain and her American colonists continued to mount.
Finally, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted for independence from Britain.
Two days later, on July 4, the Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, which had been written by Thomas Jefferson and edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
On July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration took place at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later that same day, other readings occurred in Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania.
Printer John Dunlap made about 200 copies of the Declaration, with the date of July 4. Known as the “Dunlap Broadsides,” these were distributed throughout the 13 colonies.
However, it wasn’t until August 2, 1776, that the Declaration was officially signed. John Hancock, president of the Congress, was the first of 56 delegates who signed this enlarged version, writing in big, bold letters.
On August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, the Declaration of Independence was made official.
The Fourth of July was not declared a federal holiday until 1938!