John Adams declared that July 2, the date the Second Continental Congress voted to declare the thirteen colonies independent from Great Britain, would be celebrated “…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” The written Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4.
Historians have generally concluded that the Declaration, approved on July 2 and again on July 4, was not actually signed until a month later, on August 2, 1776. John Adams’s prediction was off by two days. July 4 is the date that has been celebrated from the beginning, although it was not until 1938 that Congress legislated Independence Day, the Fourth of July, as an official Federal holiday. It’s a day of flag-waving patriotism, outdoor grilling, and fireworks.
The United States is not the only country celebrating its independence:
- April 27 – South Africa Freedom Day – South Africa gained its independence from Britain in 1910. Freedom Day commemorates the first democratic, non-racial elections held in 1994
- May 25 – African Liberation Day – Numerous African countries celebrate their freedom from European colonizers. Liberation occurred in the mid-twentieth century, mostly between 1958 and 1963.
- June 6 – National Day of Sweden – Commemorates election of King Gustav Vasa in 1523 and separation from the Kalmar Union of Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Norway declared independence from Denmark in 1814.
- June 19 – “Juneteenth” Independence Day – Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to be effective January 1, 1863. The Confederate state of Texas did not suffer any Civil War battles and slavery continued while the Union’s attention was elsewhere. On June 18, 1865 General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 Union troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the victorious federal government. The next day he read General Order No. 3 declaring the end of slavery. Most states now recognize the date as a “Ceremonial” holiday.
- July 1 – Canada Day – Independence (sort of) from Great Britain in 1867.
- August 1 – Swiss National Day – Celebrates Switzerland’s separation from the Holy Roman Empire in 1291.
- September 16 – Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810. (Not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo, which is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Mexico. It commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla. French forces were interfering in the Mexican Civil War.)
Years notable for independence were 1821, when many Central and South American countries won freedom from Spanish rule and 1991 when several countries broke away from the Soviet Union.
South Sudan canceled its July 9 Independence Day celebration this year due to the ravages of civil war. “We need to spend the little that we have on other issues,” announced the Minister of Information. South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011.
Exercise your freedom and affirm your independence. Election Day is November 8. Who do you want making Supreme Court nominations?