We all probably associate the Fourth of July as a day off work to celebrate with cookouts and fireworks, but the roots of Independence Day go deeper. It was declared a federal holiday in 1941, but Americans have been celebrating their independence for much longer.
Let’s travel back to July 2, 1776, when the Continental Congress voted to separate from Great Britain. Two days later, the delegates from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. Ever since that July 4th in 1776, we’ve been celebrating America’s independence with fireworks, family barbecues, parades and civic pride.
Fun fact: John Adams, the second president, believed that July 2nd was the correct date to celebrate America’s independence. He was so strong in this belief that he would turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.
An even MORE fun fact: Adams and his vice president (and third president) Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
What Does Independence Mean?
On the official birthday of America, we celebrate “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” After years of living under British rule, the colonists were ready to cut ties and live without the control, influence, support, or aid of King George.
There were many long years of war after the declaration that “these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” However we continue to celebrate July 4th as the original Independence Day.
The word independence was first recorded around 1630, drawing from the French word, indépendance.
The original meaning is very similar to the current definition, meaning “a fact of not depending on others or another, self-support and self-government." Go back a little further and you’ll find roots in the Old English word, selfdom. This was a pairing of self and -dom, meaning law. However this definition is closer to privilege (a special right, advantage or immunity granted only to a particular group or set of people) than the current meaning of independence.
This word that means so much to us as the beginning of July has powerful roots in the birth of the United States, and should be acknowledged. On this July 4th, try to execute an act of independence in honor of the Founding Fathers.