Though the Fourth of July is a beloved date for Americans, some people claim that it’s not the real date of our independence.
The first motion for independence in the Continental Congress was made on June 8. After lengthy debates, the Congress voted secretly for independence on July 2, 1776.
The Congress reworked the Declaration of Independence until a little after 11 p.m. on July 4, when the colonies voted for its adoption and released an unsigned copy to the printers (New York abstained). Later, Philadelphia celebrated the Declaration of Independence with public readings and bonfires on July 8.
John Adams, the unofficial and tireless whip of the independence movement, wrote his wife Abigail on July 3: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations…”
The vote on July 2 was the decisive act, but July 4 is the date on the Declaration itself. Thomas Jefferson’s stirring prose, as edited by the Congress, was adopted by the vote of July 4. It was the day Philadelphians heard the official news of their independence from England.