Celebrating Independence Day

American flags and streamers

American flags and streamers

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting our original 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.

As always, this most American of holidays is marked by festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

As we celebrate this country’s independence, let’s remember that freedom isn’t free — it was paid for by the sacrifices made by our forefathers and is continually being preserved with honor and valor by the men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces. So we express to them our utmost gratitude and thanks for their service to our country. It’s because of their courage and sacrifice that we can truly say we are free.

Although the Fourth of July 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 (1775–83).

In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence. From 1776 on, July 4 has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.

Here are some interesting facts about the Declaration of Independence:

  • The document had 56 signers.
  • Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston comprised the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration. Jefferson, regarded as the strongest and most eloquent writer, wrote most of the document.
  • John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first signer. He did so in an entirely blank space, making it the largest and most famous signature — hence the term John Hancock, still used today as a synonym for someone’s signature.
  • Benjamin Franklin (age 70), representing Pennsylvania, was the oldest of the signers. Edward Rutledge (age 26), of South Carolina, was the youngest.
  • Two future presidents signed: John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President). Both died on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration (July 4, 1826).
  • Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, our fifth President, James Monroe, also died on July 4, in 1831.
  • Charles Carroll, who represented Maryland, was the last surviving member of the signers of the Declaration. He died in 1832 at the age of 95.

Sources:
http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb13-ff14.html
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th

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