We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.United States Declaration of Independence
Every year, the United States celebrates July 4th, 1776 as the day we declared our independence from Great Britain. You may have heard that this date, also known as Independence Day and the Fourth of July, specifically commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. You may also have heard that this isn’t the “real” signing date, which is partially true. So, why do we celebrate on the 4th? In short, we’re celebrating the date when Congress approved the final language of the Declaration of Independence.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states” – voting to officially separate from Great Britain. However, they weren’t completely happy with the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, which would essentially serve as a press release explaining this monumental decision.
A few days later and after a few edits, the Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. John Hancock, as leader of the Continental Congress, was the only person to sign this copy on July 4th. On July 19th, Congress ordered the creation of the formal document, which is the handwritten parchment version you may have seen, known as the engrossed copy. This version was signed on August 2, 1776.
Other Historical Firsts
The first independence celebration was July 8, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence had its first public reading in Philadelphia. Massachusetts, home of John Hancock, became the first state to recognize the Fourth of July as an official holiday in 1781. The White House held its first Fourth of July party in 1801. Congress made Independence Day an official holiday in 1870 and it became a paid federal holiday in 1938.