By Nelson Flores
THE Fourth of July is a very important holiday in the United States, probably more important than Christmas and definitely much more observed than Holy Week, as it is when its independence from the British crown came into being.
The 4th of July became a federal holiday in 1941 although it has been celebrated since the 18th century.
According to the History Channel, on July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies – Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia – adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
From that day on in 1776 to the present day, July 4 has been celebrated as the birth of American independence. The celebration is usually marked with festivities ranging from fireworks display, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues like what is done during Thanksgiving which is another important holiday here in the US.
It is interesting to note that the struggle to become independent was not on the mind of all colonists when the rebellion against Great Britain initially broke out in 1775. In fact those who desire to become independent were labeled radicals by their fellows.
It was only on the following year or in 1776 that the idea of becoming independent gained ground among the colonists, thanks to writers like Thomas Paine who beautifully expressed revolutionary sentiment in his now famous pamphlet “Common Sense.”
On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee — including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York — to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.
On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained but later voted affirmatively).
On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
But that is not to be, for it was on July 4th, that the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson, though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd. From then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.
This issue is why John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.
Curiously, Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Another curious bit of information related to our topic is that there was a time from 1946 until the early 60’s when the Philippines celebrate its independence day also on the Fourth of July. This is so because our American colonizers granted our independence on July 4, 1946 pursuant to the provisions of the Tydings McDuffe law.
Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal changed the date of our country’s independence from July 4 to June 12 in 1962 as a consuelo de bobo to the nationalist segment of the population for he eagerly overturned the nationalist policies of his predecessor Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.
Since Macapagal took office, the Philippine economy, which was second only to Japan until prior to the Macapagal administration, went downhill to the point that the Philippines came to be known as the sick man of Asia.