Declaration Of Independence: John Adams Thought The Fourth Of July Would Be July Second

Everyone knows the Fourth of July is actually held on July 4, but did you know that John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, thought July 2 would be the holiday? When it comes to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the events that transpired leading to the colonies’ freedom from Great Britain and the celebration of the Union, several important dates come into play.

First and foremost, on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced the resolution that suggested Congress declare independence from Great Britain. After Congress reviewed the resolution, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and John Adams formed a committee with the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. That committee formed on June 11, 1776. After several weeks, the committee had formulated their draft of the Declaration of Independence, and on June 28, 1776, the draft was read before Congress. It is the actions that transpired over the next several days that resulted in the Fourth of July taking place on July 4 and not on another date.

Between July 1, 1776, and July 4, 1776, Congress debated the Declaration of Independence and made adaptations and revisions to the draft the committee formed. On July 2, 1776, Congress officially adopted the Lee Resolution and on July 4, 1776, officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. It was also on July 4, 1776, that orders for a printed Declaration of Independence were made. Interestingly, the order for the officially signed and engrossed Declaration of Independence was made on July 19, 1776, and it wasn’t until August 2, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was signed by the delegates. Five remaining delegates did not actually sign the Declaration of Independence until after August 2.

You may listen to a powerful reading by Max McClean of the Declaration of Independence below.

It was because of the July 2 adoption of the Lee Resolution that John Adams thought the celebration for the colonies’ freedom from Great Britain would be celebrated on July 2 instead of July 4. John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, in which he discussed his excitement for the new resolution.

You may read the letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams at the Massachusetts Historical Society website. Here is a portion of the letter that discusses John Adams’ belief that July 2, 1776, will go down in history as the “Day of Deliverance.”

“But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

While John Adams wrote this letter 240 years ago and mistook that the holiday would be recognized on July 2 instead of July 4, he was quite accurate with his description of how the Fourth of July would be celebrated centuries later. The Declaration of Independence remains our founding document of freedom, and today, people celebrate with parades, fireworks displays, military gunfire, and celebratory festivities.

What do you think? Does it seem strange to think of celebrating the Second of July instead of the Fourth?

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