This year, July 4th, which falls on a Monday, and will be celebrated as America’s Independence Day around the country. Americans remember that date, in 1776, as the day that John Hancock, as president of the Second Continental Congress, put quill to ink and then parchment, to affix his signature in a bold stroke at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. Interestingly, only one other person signed their name to the document that day, secretary to the Second Continental Congress, Charles Thompson.
However, the important date to remember, is today, July 2. On this date in 1776, the Second Continental Congress will adopt Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Great Britain. This document, crafted by another Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, was originally brought up for debate in June. By June 28th, Jefferson, chosen by a sub-committee to write the declaration, had presented it to Congress assembled in Philadelphia for review.
On July 1st, discussion continued and with the hope of the Congress to achieve unanimous consent on declaring independence, the vote was delayed another day. When the delegates assembled the following day, 12 of the 13 original colonies voted “yes” for independence. Unsure of how their constituents back home would want their representatives to vote for independence, whether for or against, New York abstained. This was as unanimous a decision as could be reached.
John Adams, one of the early proponents of independence would sit down and write a letter to his wife, Abigail, the day after the vote was cast. He made no mistake on what day would forever be known as the most memorable in the history of the America.
“But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
So, as one gets ready to celebrate July 4th in a few days time, remember the importance of this date in American history.
*To see a digital copy of the letter John Adams wrote to Abigail on July 3, 1776 visit the following website, courtesy of our friends at Massachusetts Historical Society. *