Happy Independence Day!
While Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, July 2nd is America’s real Independence Day.
The Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, but two days earlier on July 2nd, the Continental Congress passed the Lee Resolution (Richard Henry Lee), declaring that the people were independent from Britain.
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
On that same day, the Pennsylvania Evening Post published the following: “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”
We do because of a little thing called the Declaration of Independence.
The document was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4th. The first draft of the declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson, who gave it to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin for editing. (You can read about it at the National Archives Web site.) Jefferson then took their version, refined it further and presented it to the Congress.
Scholars don’t even think the document was signed by delegates of the Continental Congress on July 4th.
The huge canvas painting by John Trumbull hanging in the grand Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol depicting the signing of the Declaration is, it turns out, a work of imagination. In his biography of John Adams, historian David McCullough wrote: “No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia.”
It is now believed that most of the delegates signed it on Aug. 2. That’s when the assistant to the secretary of Congress, Timothy Matlack, produced a clean copy.