July 2—America’s Real Birthday?
Each year we celebrate July Fourth, Independence Day, as the birthday of the United States of America. Yet surprisingly John Adams, who was one of the men who guided the resolution for independence to its adoption, believed that July Second would be the day celebrated as the anniversary of American Independence.
Actually, it was on July second in 1776 that the Continental Congress passed a resolution proposed by delegate Richard Henry Lee which read:
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.
However, the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson began, “In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”
So, perhaps it is more correct to say that America’s birth of independence happened on July 2nd, but the Birth Certificate, The Declaration of Independence, was dated two days later on July Fourth.
Adams and Jefferson, close personal friends for many years, became bitter political rivals when they competed for the Presidency and for many years they did not even speak to one another. Nonetheless, as they grew older Adams wrote his friend turned enemy, and their correspondence rekindled their strong friendship. Strangely and fittingly the two patriots and friends died on the same day—July 4th in 1826 which was the fiftieth anniversary of Jefferson’s Declaration. Unknown to Adams, Jefferson died early in the day at his home in Virginia. As John Adams listened to the celebration of Independence Day in his native Massachusetts, he drew his last breath.
U.S. flags then flying in celebrations on that July Fourth had 24 stars symbolizing an addition of 11 states which had joined the Union during America’s first 50 years of Independence. Stars for new states are added on the July 4th following a state’s admission. By 1912 the United States had twice that number of states shown in 1826. The forty-eight stars increased with Alaska’s star in 1959 and then Hawaii’s star appeared on the flag in 1960, and the 50 star flag thus celebrates its 52nd birthday this July Fourth.
What were the last words of John Adams? When told it was the Fourth, he said, “It is a great day. It is a good day.” Then he said, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Since Jefferson had died earlier in the day, Adams was incorrect in that statement. However, he was right that the Fourth of July, Independence Day, is a great and a good day.