Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia proposed a three-step process of declaring independence and creating a confederation of States on June 7, 1776. By July 2, the Lee Resolution was brought to the Continental Congress, which established:
- 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.
- That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
It was debated, voted on, and ratified into law.
Our States’ independence from Great Britain was not an act by a bunch of White, elite, rich men. It was a legally binding congressional act:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare…”
The following day, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
The Declaration of Independence was published and publicly read on July 4, 1776, proclaiming what had taken place only two days before. It is because the date ‘July 4’ was on the handwritten document that we came to associate the date with our State’s independence.
It wasn’t until 1870 that Congress first declared July 4 to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. Further legislation about national holidays, including July 4, was passed in 1939 and 1941.
Because ‘Nationalism’ has long been considered a ‘dirty’ word, we are in very real danger of having our history either totally rewritten or completely denied.