The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies in 1776. The Declaration of Independence is America's revolutionary Charter of Freedom and the document upon which the nation's founding principles were established.
The Second Continental Congress actually made its decree for freedom on July 2, 1776, signing the Lee Resolution. Two days later, on July 4, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and the alarm for freedom was sounded at Independence Hall with the Liberty Bell. It was on August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, that The Declaration of Independence was made official.
John Adams' famous letter to his wife, Abigail, captures the spirit of the time. Writing on July 3, 1776 from Philadelphia, he said, "Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony 'that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfully do... This . . . Day . . . will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
Text from The Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
1776: In Philadelphia, PA, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and formed the United States of America
1777: USS Ranger flew a U.S. flag made from gowns
Born 1804: Nathaniel Hawthorne (author)
1817: Construction of the Erie Canal began in Rome, New York
1817: Construction of Erie Canal began
Died 1826: John Adams (2nd U.S. president)
Died 1826: Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. president)
Born 1826: Stephen Foster (composer)
1828: The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began; it was the first public railroad in the U.S.
Died 1831: James Monroe (5th U.S. president)
1845: Henry David Thoreau started his sojourn in the woods at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts
1855: Poet Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass
1862: Lewis Caroll first told Alice Liddell the story of Alice in Wonderland
1863: The Confederates surrendered to Union forces at Vicksburg, Mississippi giving the Union control of the Mississippi River
1865: Alice Lidell received the first copy of Alice in Wonderland
1865: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published
Born 1868: Henrietta Swan Leavitt (astronomer)
Born 1872: Calvin Coolidge (30th U.S. president)
Born 1883: Reuben Goldberg (cartoonist)
1884: The Statue of Liberty formally presented to the U.S. by France
Born 1918: Esther Friedman Lederer, pen name Ann Landers ("Ask Ann Landers" advice columnist; twin sister of Pauline Friedman Phillips, the "Dear Abby" columnist whose pen name was Abigail Van Buren)
Born 1918: Pauline Friedman Phillips, pen name Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby" advice columnist; twin sister of "Ask Ann Landers" columnist Esther Friedman Lederer)
Born 1927: Neil Simon (playwright)
Born 1930: George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees)
Born 1943: Geraldo Rivera (journalist)
1960: The New 50-star flag is flown for the first time
Died 1995: Eva Gabor (actress)
Died 2002: Benjamin Davis, Jr. (leader of the Tuskegee Airmen and the first African American general in the Air Force)
2003: 15-pound 3-ounce American lobster caught, New Jersey
Died 2003: Barry White (singer)
Died 2009: Steve McNair (football player)