The History Of The Fourth of July
The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941. The tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4 has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. The Fourth of July 2022 is on Monday, July 4, 2022.
In the early stages of the revolutionary movement in the colonies during the 1760s and early '70s, patriots used such celebrations to proclaim their resistance to Parliament's legislation while lauding King George III as the real defender of English liberties. However, marking the first days of independence during the summer of 1776 took form in many towns of a mock funeral for the king. His "death" symbolized the end of monarchy and tyranny and the rebirth of liberty.
During the republic's early years, Independence Day was commemorated with parades, oratory, and toasting in ceremonies that celebrated the existence of the new nation. These rites played an equally important role in the evolving federal political system. The rise of informal political parties provided venues for leaders and constituents to tie local and national contests to independence and the issues facing the national polity. By the mid-1790s, the two developing political parties held separate partisan Independence Day festivals in most larger towns. Perhaps, for this reason, Independence Day became the model for a series of (often short-lived) celebrations that sometimes contained more explicit political resonance, such as George Washington's birthday and the anniversary of Jefferson's inauguration. At the same time, he served as president (1801–09).
The bombastic torrent of words that characterized Independence Day during the 19th century made it both a severe occasion and one sometimes open to ridicule—like the increasingly popular and democratic political process in that period. With the growth and diversification of American society, the Fourth of July commemoration became a patriotic tradition that many groups—not just political parties—sought to claim. Abolitionists, women's rights advocates, the temperance movement, and opponents of immigration (nativists) all seized the day and its observance, often declaring that they could not celebrate with the entire community. In contrast, an un-American perversion of their rights prevailed.
With the rise of leisure, the Fourth of July became a major midsummer holiday. The prevalence of heavy drinking and the many injuries caused by setting off fireworks prompted reformers of the 19th and the early 20th century to mount a Safe and Sane Fourth of July movement. During the later 20th century, although it remained a national holiday marked by parades, concerts of patriotic music, and fireworks displays, Independence Day declined in importance as a political venue. It remains a potent symbol of national power and specifically American qualities—even the freedom to stay at home and barbecue.
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