What you Don't Know About the 4th of July
American Independence Day - The Whole Story
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Today in the United States of America, families will gather to watch parades, barbecue, to swim, drink copious amount of beer and assorted mixed drinks and generally just enjoy Summer, while celebrating the 4th of July. When darkness falls, fireworks will decorate the night sky.
Few will stop to think about the courage, sacrifice and history behind this holiday. Thanks to sub-standard public education, many aren't really even sure what is being celebrated and why.
Photo Credit: "The Fight at Concord Bridge” by Harry Jaecks
The roots of the American Revolution can be traced back as far as 1651 as colonists recoiled against British taxation. The closing of the port of Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party, followed by the Crown's revocation of self-government in Massachusetts and other factors led directly towards revolution.
The actual shooting didn't start in earnest until the British decided to disarm the American population, to cement their political and military control over the people.
British regulars marched North of Boston to seize muskets, ball and powder warehoused at Lexington & Concord on April 19, 1775. A group of colonial militia fired upon the British Soldiers, stopping their advance and thereby preserving the colonists ability to resist tyranny through force of arms.
Much later, in 1837, this engagement was immortalized as "The shot heard round the World", from the opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn".
Later, on March 17, 1776, the Continental Army, commanded by General George Washington would eject the British from Boston, in the first organized military victory of the war.
The Reason for the Season
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If you ask most Americas, "Do they have 4th of July, in other countries", they will answer incorrectly, "No". The Holiday known as 4th of July is officially called, American Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which was actually voted upon on July 2nd, not the 4th.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had proposed the independence resolution during the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia on June 7th.
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On July 2nd after Congress voted to separate politically from Great Britain, an actual document needed to be drafted and a committee of 5 was formed, which included Thomas Jefferson, who would be become its principal author.
The next day it was simply too hot in Philadelphia for Congress to meet. This was made even worse because all the windows were closed and covered so as to keep outsiders from listening and reporting the debates.
Finally, after a few changes, the resolution was approved that became known as the Declaration of Independence. Arguably, the most important document in U.S. History was adopted on July 4th. Having been written, finalized and adopted in only two days, something quite impossible in today's "modern" world.
King George III
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The British had convinced themselves that the Revolution was the work of a full few miscreants who had rallied an armed rabble to their cause, they expected that the revolutionaries would be intimidated…. Then the vast majority of Americans, who were loyal but cowed by the terroristic tactics… would rise up, kick out the rebels, and restore loyal government in each colony
On the same day, July 2nd, that the Continental Congress had voted for Independence, the first British troops landed on Staten Island New York, facing George Washington's Continental Army.
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Eventually the British would send the largest fleet the world had ever seen; over 400 ships, including 73 warships, and 32,000 troops. After losing over a 1,000 men in combat defending New York, Washington's Army secretly retreated under cover of darkness on August 30th.
The war would rage into a global conflict as France sided with the Americans and hostilities would continue until peace was declared on September 3, 1783.
It wasn't until four years later, on September 17, 1787 that the present United States Constitution would replace the Articles of Confederation, however it did not go into effect until March 4, 1789 or 13 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence .
Today - The 240th Anniversary
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So today, when you are proudly flying the flag, eating your share of 155 million hot dogs, drinking over a Billion Dollars in alcoholic beverages and setting off 285 Million Pounds of fireworks, take a moment to remember those 56 men assembled in a hot muggy building in Philadelphia, who "Mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor..."
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, a total of 5 were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. 12 had their homes ransacked and burned. 2 lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured and another 9 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
With a total American population of the time, of a little over 3 million people, as a percentage of the population, the American Revolution was one of the costliest and bloodiest wars in American history.
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