So this weekend marks the 240th anniversary of the USA’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. We Americans celebrate in a variety of ways, primarily by eating grilled meat and red, white, and blue desserts, and watching fireworks. In my neighborhood, people start trying to maim themselves with fireworks on July 1 and continue through the 4th, a practice which doesn’t thrill my dogs. Last night someone was having a party, which involved singing “Sweet, Caroline” loudly and off-key.
Because I am geeky that way, I thought I’d share a few facts you might not know about Independence Day.
- Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, thought July 2 was the true date of independence, and refused to participate in July 4 celebrations. (July 2 was the date the Continental Congress voted for independence; July 4 was the date the final draft of the Declaration was approved. It wasn’t signed until August 2.)
- Jefferson, and his pal John Adams, died on July 4, 1826.
- Not all of the 13 colonies voted in favor of independence. Nine voted in favor, Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against, Delaware was undecided, and New York abstained.
- Philadelphia held the first commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777.
- George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778.
- Massachusetts was the first state to declare the 4th of July a state holiday.
- The 4th of July wasn’t widely celebrated in the new country until after the War of 1812.
- The 4th of July was made a federal holiday in 1870, but federal employees didn’t get the day off, with pay, until 1938 (or possibly 1939, or 1941–every site I looked at had a different date, and I’m too lazy to really look it up).
- “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British soldiers to make fun of the buckskin-wearing American fighters in the French and Indian War.
- The Revolutionary War didn’t begin or end with the Declaration of Independence. The war started in April 1775 in Massachusetts–remember Paul Revere’s midnight ride?–and ended with the signing of the Peace of Paris treaty on September 3, 1783. The last British troops left the USA in December 1783.
So, Yanks–how are you celebrating the 4th (or 2nd) or July? As for me, I’m off to the zoo today since my teenager is actually speaking to me for a change, and I’ll probably grill some meat for dinner. Maybe I’ll even make a red, white, and blue dessert…