Independence Day: July 2 vs July 4. And why it matters

Red, white and blue cupcakes from our kitchen

Red, white and blue cupcakes from our kitchen

As the fourth of July celebrations show us – and this is important for Egypt today – it’s not the day you win your independence that’s important, but what the struggle was all about. The legal separation of the 13 colonies from Britain occurred on July 2, 1776. But it was only two days later that the Second Continental Congress debated and revised the wording of its Declaration of Independence, which explained its decision to break free. So even though the Second of July is America’s real independence day, it is the Fourth that has always been celebrated as such.

In 1776, few thought this would be the case. On July 3, 1776, John Adams, one of those who signed the Declaration, was writing to his wife Abigail that “the second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” Though Mr Adams’ capabilities are well known (he served as the newly independent country’s first vice president and went on to become its second presiden), he was less astute a prophet than he might have been. “I am apt to believe that it (the 2nd of July) will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

He went on to suggest that it “be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized 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.”

All of these happen, but on the 4th, not the 2nd of July. On the 4th, the world had the whys and wherefores of the 13 colonies fight to be free, all the colonial grievances against King George III, and that stirring assertion of natural and legal rights (“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”)

To be truly free, one has to know what freedom means – freedom to do what? Achieve what? Oppose what?

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac