History of 4th July features
the anecdote of American Independence. The birth of United States of
It is a saga of struggle and sacrifices that helped the pre-US Americans
break free their colonial status.
As we know, the birth and growth of what we call UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA is of fairly recent origin, especially compared to countries in
the Asia, Europe or Africa.
There have been great empires before with their population exceeding
some hundreds of billions. But none has experienced a huge build up like
that with mostly peoples coming from so many different places. All integrated
today to belong to the United States. This is an altogether new
thing in history.
How did such a strange thing happen?
Zooming in around the seventeenth century in the chronology of the global history we see the whole of Europe was engaged in an
unplanned, incoherent ebullition of enterprise due to temporary and
almost accidental advantages over the rest of mankind. By virtue of
these advantages the new and largely empty continent of America was
peopled mainly from West Europe, as it happened in case of Australia and
Canada, as a prospective home for a European population. There were
settlements of the British, the Dutch, the French and the Spanish in
various parts of North America. But the British ones absorbed the
By about 1600 England had a small settlement in Virginia and Holland had
one around New Amsterdam, now called New York. But the British outgrew
others in no time, calling for further expansion. So the British
colonies grew in number. By 1732 there were 13 such. They had their own
governments under governors sent out by the British monarchs.
Raison d' etre
Attracted by the growth of this new source of wealth for the national
exchequer Britain levied taxes without any voice in the spending of
those taxes. A host of consumer goods including tea, glass, paper and
molasses were taxed. Also, the immigrant Americans were not allowed to
embark upon industries that competed with those at home. The trade had
to be sacrificed to British interests. In 1765, the British government
passed the Stamp Act that put tax on all documents, newspapers and
pamphlets. This incensed the Americans. Although the tax was repealed
later, the bitterness remained. Matters grew worse when the Americans
realized that they had no representation in Parliament. This realization
magnified their sense of alienation from the motherland.
Discontent grew further when, despite the active support during the war
with French, British failed to redress their grievances.
Finally, in 1773 when a fresh tax on tea was imposed, some Americans
dressed as Red Indians boarded tea ships in Boston Harbor and tipped
them into the water. This event subsequently came to be known as Boston
Tea party. The British retaliated by closing the Boston Harbor and
removing the city's charter. The Americans in turn, issued a Declaration
Of Rights which, among other things, prohibited import of any goods from
Britain until Boston's civic rights were restored. In 1774 the 13
colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to form the First
Continental Congress. The delegates were unhappy with England, then
under king George III, but were not yet ready to declare war.
The War unplugged
The Americans were already infuriated to the point of eruption.
Then came April, 1775. The British government attempted to arrest two of
the American leaders at Lexington near Boston Harbor. And it was at
Lexington where the British troops fired first shots. This spark-plugged
the first fighting at Concord. The King's troops advanced on Concord
Massachusetts marking the unofficial beginning of the colonies' war for
Independence. The following May the colonies again sent delegates to the
Second Continental Congress. Though the British General Howe was
defeated near Boston, initially the Americans were in trouble.
For almost a year theCongress tried to work out it's differences
with England. But the war was yet to be declared formally. By June 1776 their efforts went in vain and a committee was
formed to compose a formal Declaration of Independence.
Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee included John Adams, Benjamin
Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. Thomas Jefferson was
chosen to write the first draft which was presented to the Congress on
June 28. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed
the Declaration of Independence. After various changes a vote was
taken late in the afternoon of July 4th at a meeting in Philadelphia. Of
the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration, 2 - Pennsylvania
and South Carolina voted 'No', Delaware remained undecided while New York
The first newspaper to print the Declaration was the Pennsylvania
Evening Post on July 6, 1776. On July 8th the Declaration had it's first
public reading in Philadelphia's Independence Square.
The bell in Independence Hall was rung. The "Province Bell"
would later be renamed "Liberty Bell" after it's inscription
-Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants
Although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August,
the 4th of July has come to be accepted as the official anniversary of United
States' independence. In fact, the event came to be recognized as the
most important one in American history and the document provided the
basis of American Constitution which was issued some 11 years later. The
first Independence Day celebration took place the following year - July
Meanwhile the Americans under George Washington as commander-in-chief
kept defeating the British troops. It was only after the British
defeat under the General Cornwallis in 1781 Britain gave up.
The official recognition didn't come until 1783, when peace was made in
Paris. Thus the United States of America came into existence with
a union of 13 thirteen sovereign states from Main to Georgia.
For almost four years these States had
only a very feeble central government under certain Articles of
Confederation and they seemed destined to break up into separate
independent communities. It was in 1788 when a convention was held.
Thanks to the initiative of some leading statesmen. A
Constitution was drawn up and ratified based on the Philadelphia
Declaration and the draft was finally approved. Thus a more efficient
federal government came in to being with a President at the helm. The
delegation at the convention unanimously elected George Washington as
the first president who took office in 1789.
But did all these bring to an end the more-than-a-decade long War with
For more... the story of the Star Spangled Banner,
our national anthem.