How did you spend your Fourth of July? Did you watch the fireworks? Practiced your barbecuing skills? Maybe you soaked up some of the sun's rays and sat by the pool or on the shore of the beach. Though we have some very set "rituals" for our Fourth of July festivities, not many of us incorporate the actual history into our celebration. In fact, not many of us can recall the full history of the Fourth of July. I spent my Fourth of July around my college catching fellow students and a faculty member off guard to get their take on what the Fourth of July really is. In their interview, they were only given one minute to tell me the entire history of the holiday. I learned that we as a nation do not know our own history. I present to you the completely unprofessional, absolutely hysterical, untrue history of the Fourth of July.
"So like, the British guys were all like, "Hey! You're my colony, you do what I say cause I'm the boss." And then the American dudes were all like, "Woah! Hey man, that's technically true but let's not." And then they fought and there was like, lots of blood and stuff, and the tea was definitely spilled- in the ocean. And then- and then, they fought some more, right? And then the Americans won. The end." Kiara Perez, University High School, Class of 2019.
"Let's see, July 4th. It represents the freedom where the Declaration of Independence was signed in- in 1776- probably on July 4th. *laughter* By parties who I do not know *more laughter* I don't know what the fireworks represent, and that's really all I know." Samantha Pabon, Faculty at Valencia College
"Okay, all I know about the Fourth of July is Independence Day- and there's fireworks. That's all I really know. *laughter* I'm really bad at history." Jai, Valencia College, Class of 2019
"Independence Day. Red, white, blue. Fireworks. Explosions. Boom! Everything, lights! Camera! Action! Boom!" RJ, Valencia College, Class of 2019
Alright, let's actually talk about what the Fourth of July is. No- it's not quite like you see in Hamilton or 1776 (though both are amazing musical retellings). To get to the root of the history of the Fourth of July we need talk about what our ancestors were fighting for.
Like many arguments by ages gone, and for years to come; the Revolutionary War was about money. Britain was in debt due to the French and Indian war, so they decided to take our their financial frustrations on their beloved colonists. This led to many taxes such as the Stamp Act. Clearly, America was not happy. When asked why they went to war in the first place, Britain basically said "Because I'm older and I know what's best.", when in all actuality America was pretty convinced they were fighting for their own benefit rather than for the colonies.
America was not having it, to say the least. They realized that Britain was deciding what was best for us, without actually having any American representatives to say anything! That's when the phrase, "No taxation without representation" started gaining ground. America decided that if they needed to have a say in their own future.
So, how did the colonists retaliate? Dressed as Native Americans, they proceeded to take 342 chests full of tea and dump them into the Boston harbor.
Clearly, parliament was not happy with this move and decided to fight back themselves. They passed the Intolerable Acts which served to reassert their dominance over the colonies and really show them who's boss. The colonies responded not in their usual vicious way (AKA dumping out enough tea into the ocean to make it look like a Lipton commercial), but by meeting in a continental congress to fight back against taxation without representation and the other cruel ways Britain was treating their colonies.
After the first Continental Congress, the Revolutionary War really took off. Battles broke out, often resulting in British victory- but created a unified, revolutionary spirit among Americans. The second continental congress arose after "the shot heard around the world" in 1775, and tensions were pretty high. Throughout both continental congresses, the delegates were not seeking complete independence from Britain. (Except our boy, John Adams.)
When the Congress tried to settle their disagreement peacefully with Britain, the motherland basically said,
.. and decided the colonies were full of rebels. This caused colonists to feel more and more alienated from the motherland and sparked serious questions about their identity as a country. What made them different from the Englishmen in Britain? Why did they have a say in how they were to live their lives?
America decided it was time to push for a full independence from Britain. On July 2, 1776, they decided to declare independence officially. On the 4th of July in the year of 1776, the Continental Congress decided on the wording and signed the Declaration of Independence.
Therefore, that has been the day that we have decided to celebrate our independence. It has been so federally since in 1870, despite one of our most radical founding fathers despising the date. (John Adams believed that we should celebrate on July 2). Our celebrations for the 4th of July seem to come from a letter written by John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:
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.
So, there you have it. An abridged history of the fourth of July. Move forward into the rest of the year, proud of your independence, and remember the struggles we have and still have to face as a country together. Next year, when you see your friends ignorant of the history of the American holiday, educate them and tell them all about how John Adams was the real MVP for independence.
Lead Image Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons