Every July 4th, we celebrate the birth of our nation. It was on July 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. That moment thirteen disparate colonies came together to reject being ruled by a tyrannical monarch and to begin the process of creating a revolutionary form of government.
Even if you know the basics of the first Independence Day, here are a few facts that may surprise you.
Who Else Contributed to the Writing of the Declaration of Independence?
Thomas Jefferson is credited with being the author of the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress had assigned a committee of five men to draft a letter to King George outlining their complaints and explaining why Congress had voted for independence. But, the committee quickly decided on a more radical approach, writing an official declaration from the Congress, instead of just a letter.
The committee charged with this solemn responsibility were:
- Thomas Jefferson
- Benjamin Franklin
- John Adams
- Roger Sherman
- Robert Livingston
Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence. He asked John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to review his work. These two made a few revisions. Then the rest of the committee met, reviewed the work, and made a few more revisions. When the document was presented to the Continental Congress, a few last revisions were made before it was adopted.
The Declaration of Independence as we know it today is the work of several contributors, but the tone and ideas were framed by Jefferson.
July 4th Was Only One Option for Celebrating Independence Day
We celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July because that it is the day the Continental Congress agreed to accept the Declaration of Independence as an official document of the assembly. But, there are many other days that we could celebrate as Independence Day:
July 2, 1776 was the day the Continental Congress voted that the thirteen colonies should be independent of King George and England. It was also the date Congress authorized the drafting of what would become the Declaration of Independence.
August 2, 1776 was the day that the Declaration of Independence was officially signed by the delegates to the Continental Congress.
October 19, 1781 was the day British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his troops after the battle of Yorktown, ending major hostilities.
September 3, 1783 the Revolutionary War officially ended with the signing of a peace treaty in Paris.
September 17,1787 was the day the Articles of Confederation was officially replaced by the Constitution, creating the form of American government we still enjoy today.
Each of these dates could easily have been adopted as Independence Day instead of the 4th of July. But, from the beginning, Americans have always looked up the date that a group of elected representatives met together and voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence as the day our nation was born.
Betsy Ross’s Flag Wasn’t Adopted Until Later
After we became a new nation, the Continental Congress needed to adopt new national symbols. The flag that most of us think of as the first American Flag, also known as the Betsy Ross Flag, was not adopted until June 14, 1777.
This flag features thirteen white stars in a circle against a blue field with thirteen red and white stripes. The stars and stripes represent the thirteen former colonies. The stars are arranged in a circle to represent all of the former colonies being equal.
On the first Independence Day there was not yet a single flag to represent all of the hopes and dreams of the fledgling nation.