We celebrate America’s birth on July 4th and commonly believe that on July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was created and signed but is that really the truth? What do we really know about July 4, 1776? Did the conflict start after the declaration was signed? Was America really independent and formally separated from Britain on July 4, 1776? Let us take a look at these and other commonly believed assumptions surrounding July 4, 1776.
The actual conflict started with the enactment of the Stamp Act by Parliament in 1765. This parliamentary act was designed to raise taxes to pay for the British Army’s presence in America. It was the act that actually brought the first armed conflict and was a foretelling event of the upcoming American war for Independence. The actions by the colonists caused Parliament to recall the Stamp Act in 1766.
The conflict was subdued and the colonists accepted their role within the British Empire for the time being until Parliament passed another tax on tea in America. The Tea Tax Act was passed in 1773 and its main purpose was to salvage the failing East India Company. This so called “tax” was just the opposite of what we think of as taxes today. It accomplished the salvage of the company by greatly lowering the company’s tax rate which gave the company a monopoly on the tea market in America. The Tea Tax Act actually lowered the tax on tea but in so doing it allowed the East India Company ultimate price control on tea which it exploited at the colonies’ expense. The interesting part of all this is the fact that there was another Parliamentary act, called the Regulating Act that put a large part of control of the East India Company into the hands of the British government. In the eyes of the colonists that made the absorbent charges for tea a tax by the British government. I know everyone has heard of the colonists’ response to these “new taxes” and that would of course be The Boston Tea Party.
In 1774 Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing the Coercive Acts or the Tolerance Acts. This turned Massachusetts into a military state by putting the state under virtual martial law controlled by the British Army. It went even further and made British government officials immune from prosecution for any crimes they might commit against its citizens. It also forced the colonist to house the British military without compensation. This allowed the military to plunder the colonists for whatever they wanted without prosecution. That was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The colonist became surfs or slaves to their tyrannical British government. This pushed the colonists to create the Continental Congress and it also united the colonies in their resolve against the British tyranny. Today we would call this a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy to rebel against the government of Britain. In 1775 the military marched to Concord Massachusetts to seize the American arsenal which was commonly known to be stored there. This is considered to be the true first shots of the American Revolution. The two groups met on the field of battle in Lexington on April 19, 1775 and proceeded to start a war.
The colonist at first saw the conflict not as a revolution but as a fight for their “British” rights as British citizens. The British crown however saw it as a rebellious act in the form of a kind of civil war. Parliament unwaveringly continued with their taxation oppression. Since Parliament would not waver, the colonist realized that their only hope to be rid of this taxation tyranny was to be rid of Parliament and British rule. John Adams was one of the primary leaders who pushed for this independence.
In 1776 the idea of independence grew rapidly throughout the colonies. The Continental Congress formulated the idea of creating independent state governments, not one federal entity to govern America. They envisioned a coalition of independent states working together against all enemies. If you doubt my words just read the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States”. That concept has been totally lost over the centuries with the federal government constantly overstepping its bounds. States have gradually lost their powers to the rapidly growing power of the federal government and now the same thing is happening to the citizens and their powers, but that is subject for another day.
The Continental Congress also put together a group of five men to create a “declaration” to send to the king and Parliament, stating their intentions. Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of this declaration and after he wrote his first draft, he submitted it to Ben Franklin and John Adam for their corrections. He made the corrections and submitted that to Congress for passage and that copy has been lost to history. His rough draft of this version with his notes is housed at the Library of Congress and other later copies are on display in Washington. That is the saddest part of this story, that the original Declaration of Independence has been lost.
Then Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 formally voted to secede from British rule. They then voted on the declaration which is called the Declaration of Independence and was accepted by twelve of the thirteen colonies on July 4, 1776. However New York held out until July 19, 1776 when it formally approved of the declaration. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed by the Continental Congress until August 2, 1776. The war lasted for some five years and it didn’t actually end until the Second Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783. The Continental Congress then ratified that treaty on January 14, 1784.
America wasn’t formally and totally independent from Britain until January 14, 1784 and even then Britain didn’t accept America’s independence because they tried one more time to take control of America with the War of 1812. We can be thankful that they failed at their second attempt of enslavement because he they hadn’t failed we might still be British slaves.
There were many other acts and laws passed by both sides that fueled the conflict and neither side showed any signs of giving in. This is a brief description of how the date July 4, 1776 played into our independence. Technically there was only one day that can be considered the day where we actually were independent of England and that is January 14, 1784 because that was when the Continental Congress passed the treaty with Britain that ended the British conflict and removed all of Britain’s claims to America.
On July 4, 1776 only twelve of the thirteen colony members of the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence thus that day was not a big pivotal moment in America’s independence other than the fact that the majority of the colonies were officially on board that day. So you may ask, why do we celebrate that day as our day of independence?
The national holiday wasn’t created until 1941. Prior to that our independence was unofficially celebrated on July 4th and the majority of the country has celebrated that day as far back as the 18th century. John Adams predicted that America would celebrate July 2nd as the day of its independence because that was the day that they voted to secede from the British Empire. The holiday didn’t become commonly celebrated until after the War of 1812 probably because they felt that they weren’t free of British interference in their government until the British war machine was totally humiliated for a second time.
There was another reason for the reluctance to celebrate the holiday until after the War of 1812 and that was because of the Federalists Party’s interference. We had a two party system even back then. There were the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists Parties. The Federalists did not like the Declaration because of its wording. There were too many concepts within the document that were in direct conflict to their ideals. The Federalists Party died a slow death right after the War of 1812 which allowed for a more sincere celebration of the holiday by Americans. Many new parties cropped up in its wake but they all were supporters of the Declaration thus making the celebrating of the Declaration even more desired by those in power.
I believe that since the citizens of Philadelphia spontaneously celebrated the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, that they forever set a precedent for the rest of the country. I think that is one of the deciding factors that made July 4th our holiday. The other most prominent deciding factor was the fact that the Declaration of Independence has these words at the very top of the page “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1976″. Even though it wasn’t officially signed on July 4, Continental Congress had those words placed at the top of the document making it the official date.
This article was written by Bertrum J Meisner Jr. I am not a professional writer. I am just a common every day laborer like most of you. I write from my heart, logic and life experiences. I am a devout Constitutional conservative and Christian. My only degree is in life experiences, which comes from a lifetime of learning from life. I derived my education from being part of this great nation and that has given me more of an education than I could ever get from any text book. I love this country and everything it is supposed to stand for. I write to bring it back to its roots and to help stop the destruction that is coming to this country both morally and physically.
Bertrum James Meisner Jr
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