You know the date. You know the reason for the holiday. You know what it is we are meant to celebrate.
But how much do you really know about the Fourth of July?
While hundreds of books have been written about the founding of the nation and the men who helped make it a reality, the holiday itself has a very unique history. So, in honor of July 4, and to provide you with a few facts with which to impress any (social distancing) party-goers you happen to come across today, here are a few unique facts related to America’s birthday celebration.
John Adams Was Wrong
The Massachusetts firebrand, known for his temper, ego, and impressive intellect, was one of the most important figures of early America. He is considered by many historians as having been essential in persuading his fellow Continental Congress members to eventually agree to independence and went on to be the first Vice President and second President of the United States.
Adams had a unique ability to see clearly what was on the horizon, having not only predicted the necessity of independence from Great Britain before many dared consider the action, but also, years later, Adams warned about the dangers of partisan politics. But he didn’t get all of his predictions right….including what day would be remembered by history as most important when it came to the Declaration of Independence.
On July 2, the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration, leading Adams to declare, in a letter to his wife Abigail, that it would be remembered as the official date of America’s birth. He was, of course, two days off on his prediction, as July 4, the date on which members began signing the Declaration, would become venerated in American history.
A Deadly Holiday?
The Fourth of July is a day of celebration, but it’s also been a somber date throughout history.
Three U.S. Presidents have died on July 4—three of the first five Presidents, to be exact.
The most famous occurred on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The before-mentioned Adams and the author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, had both fallen ill due to old age by 1826. The two men were miles apart—Adams in Massachusetts and Jefferson in Virginia—yet they both passed away on that anniversary. Famously, Adams’ last words were supposedly, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” but in fact he did not. Jefferson had actually died before Adams.
Five years later, James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, died at age 73, in New York.
While he didn’t die on July 4, the holiday is reportedly what did in another U.S. President. In 1850, Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, attended a party in Washington, D.C., where he ate fresh fruit and drank milk. The festivities would prove fatal, as Taylor contracted food-born cholera and died five days later.
A Celebration Of A New Independence
Americans began holding events in honor of the Fourth of July as early as a year after the signing of the Declaration, with firework displays dating back to 1777 and Massachusetts making July 4 an official holiday beginning in 1781.
However, after the Civil War ended in 1865, the holiday took on new meaning for a new group of citizens. According to reports, July 4 was celebrated predominantly by former slaves in southern states in the immediate years following the war. African Americans, four million of whom had been slaves, celebrated on July 4 as a day of not only America’s independence but their own from the vile institution.
Unfortunately, the celebrations were short lived. As efforts during Reconstruction failed, southern whites, angry over the results of the war and the freeing of slaves, began to exert more and more power. By the end of the 19th century, predominantly African American Fourth of July celebrations had all but disappeared.
Independence Day, Philippines Edition
You know that America declared her independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. However, the nation was not official until 1783, when the war against Great Britain was eventually won.
But there’s another country that celebrated July 4 as the day in which it did, in fact, gain full independence: The Philippines.
It was on July 4, 1946 that the Treaty of Manila was signed, which granted the Philippines its independence from the U.S. The country’s Independence Day date was eventually changed to June 15, but July 4 remains known as Philippine Republic Day.
From all of us at The Cheshire Herald, we wish you a happy, safe, and healthy Fourth of July!