Fireworks, picnics, parades, American flags, BBQ, grilled steaks, hot dogs, apple pie, peach cobbler, crawfish (I’m from Louisiana y’all), patriotic songs, and the parties! That can only mean one thing. It’s Independence Day! The day Americans (as in United States of America not the continents) celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent country. You may already know and understand why the Fourth of July is such an important holiday for Americans, but I’m sure there are some facts you probably didn’t know.
6. Several other countries were inspired by the Declaration of Independence and used it as a blueprint in their own fight for freedom.
The impact of the Declaration of the Declaration was not only felt in the English colonies in America, but it had global implications. France, Russia, Venezuela, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Vietnam, and several other countries used the Declaration of Independence as inspiration for their own fights for freedom. David Armitage wrote, the Declaration was addressed as much to “mankind” as it was to the population of the colonies.
5. John Adams predicted the wrong date for Independence Day.
John Adams thought July 2 would be America’s Independence Day. July 2 was the date the Continental Congress (the second one) actually voted for independence and decided to accept the Declaration of Independence whose main writer was Thomas Jefferson. However, the final copy of the Declaration of Independence was not formally adopted until two days later on July 4.
It took a while for the Declaration of Independence to be officially embossed, printed, and signed by the all the Founders. We are talking about a time before cars and laser printers. It was a slow process. Therefore, Independence Day is the celebration of the adoption of the document rather than the signing of the document.
Teacher Tip: I really think it is important to distinguish the difference between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the adopting. They are not the same thing. Also, students like to debate whether the celebration should be July 2, July 4, or August 2- the date most of the delegates from the Second Continental Congress finished signing. Kids are pretty opinionated and enjoy developing arguments. What an awesome way to get some nonfiction writing into your classroom.
4. July 4 did not become an official holiday until almost 100 years later in 1870.
On June 28, 1870, July 4th became a federal holiday along with New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. The holiday had been celebrated across the country, but it was only officially recognized in Washington D.C. only. It didn’t become a holiday for all federal employees until 1968. This is because all U.S. federal holidays are only applicable to federal employees and the District of Columbia, the states individually decide their own legal holidays. Usually that coincides with the federal holidays.
3. All of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were British citizens.
Okay, this may be one that you didn’t realize that you knew you knew. Remember, these men were committing treason against their current country, Great Britain, by signing this document declaring freedom. So, yeah… They were British citizens at the time, but they were evolving into something new. And not every colonist was on board with this evolution.
2. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the same day, July 4, 1826.
Most people know that Thomas Jefferson was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence. But many don’t know that other Founding Fathers like Ben Franklin and John Adams helped Jefferson develop and edit the document. Adams and Jefferson were sort of competitive frenemies, and they were not always on the same page politically. Jefferson died a few hours before Adams on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence; a document that both men helped draft.
Another Founder, 5th US president, and author of the Monroe Doctrine, James Monroe, died on July 4 in 1831. Two time Nobel Prize winner Madam Marie Curie also died on July 4 in 1934. That fact doesn’t really mesh with this article, but I love her so it stays.
1. George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence.
Washington couldn’t sign because he was too busy being the Commander of the Continental Army and fighting in the American Revolutionary War. The American Revolution started in 1775; almost a year before the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
This article is an update from an article originally posted in July 2014.
- Lesson Plans and Activities from readwritethink
- Sign the Declaration of Independence
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- The Jefferson Monticello
- Gilder Lehrman (Great Article)
- Library of Congress: Drafting the Documents: Scroll to “Jefferson’s original Rough draught“. You can see Jefferson’s actual rough draft with edits from Franklin and Adams. Yep, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was the 3rd president of the US, influenced the construction of the US government, a Founding Father, scientist, & the president who bought the LA Territory and then commissioned teams to explore/observe the land had to have somebody edit his work. My students cannot argue with that; they must have someone edit or no credit.
- White House: Presidents
- Miller Center
- Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different by Gordon S. Wood
- US Federal Holidays
- Primary Sources
- Declaration of Independence Lesson from Library of Congress
- Mr. Nussbaum: American Revolution