Today’s blog post comes from Parks Schmidt. Parks interns with the museum and has contributed over 500 hours of time in his first year. 

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! The Fourth of July is once again here and with it comes all the hamburgers, fireworks, and hundreds of year old misconceptions. So why do we celebrate our independence on July 4th and how did it come about? Well, let’s break it down.

1775 was a turbulent year in the original 13 colonies: the American Revolution was being fought at battles like Lexington & Concord, Bunker Hill, and Fort Ticonderoga. Even with an open revolt sweeping the North East, many colonists did not want to gain independence and the ones who did were called Radicals. It wasn’t until 1776 when more battles were fought, showing the extent of the brutality of war, along with literature being printed like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense that the number of independence-seeking colonists increased.

Richard henry Lee was the Virginian delegate to the Continental Congress in the Pennsylvania State House and called for complete independence for the thirteen colonies. However, due to a large and extremely heated debate on the subject, it was postponed. This did not stop the idea of a free nation in the new world. A 5-man committee (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman) would begin to draft a declaration of American independence.

The Declaration of Independence, spearheaded by Jefferson was pushed forward to the floor of Independence Hall in early July, being passed on July 2nd. However, it wouldn’t be until July 4th when the declaration was adopted. This two day gap would be a sore spot between Jefferson and Adams, as Adams believed that the true day of American Independence was the 2nd while Jefferson believed it was the 4th.

John Adams did have his way with one thing: fireworks! Adams always dreamed of the Fourth of July celebrations (or Second of July for him) to include hundreds of colorful explosions shot into the sky. If that’s not American, I don’t know what is.

So, while we all celebrate with hamburgers, hotdogs, the American flag, and no fireworks here in Virginia Beach, let’s celebrate not only the independence of the union but also the political wheeling and dealing and the grudges the formation of the Declaration created.