Written by Ben D. Martin

Handwritten note for the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress about Independence Day

In 2022, I wrote a post arguing that we should celebrate Independence Day on July 2nd, since that’s when the Continental Congress voted to separate from Great Britain. Ben D. Martin sent me a rebuttal, making the excellent argument that July 4th IS the right date for the celebration because that’s when the reasoning behind the move to Independence was explained.

It is correct that the day the Continental Congress voted to separate from the British Empire was July 2nd. And it’s also true that John Adams wrote excitedly to Abigail that July 2nd–not the 4th–“will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…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.”

But, John Adams, though one of our truly important Founders, was a bit ornery and a contrarian.

His sentiments to Abagail were a little pre-mature. I think he was caught up in the exhilaration of convincing the 2nd Continental Congress to vote for Independence.

After all, he delivered the critical speech for Independence on 1 July, to counter John Dickinson’s against it.

He also helped Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams, & Edward Rutledge, on the evening of 1 July, to convince the delegates from PA & SC to change their initial vote on 1 July against Independence, to vote for Independence on the morning of 2 July.

The fact of the matter is many nations throughout history have declared their Independence, but no nation had ever done so and made the argument as to why the were doing so. More importantly, no nation had ever declared their principles for doing so, and incorporated those principles into their government & society after winning their war for Independence.

That argument & those principles were argued and modified over the course of the next 3 days in Congress’ deliberations, (afternoon of 2 July through the late afternoon on 4 July), then the final draft as modified by Congress (86 changes & an elimination of 25% of Jefferson’s original draft) was approved and sent to John Dunlap for printing.

That is what made our Declaration noteworthy in all the world.

In my humble opinion, the process of Declaring Independence was not complete until the Declaration was complete, and that was on 4 July, not 2 July, as Adams stated in his letter to his wife, and therefore I believe 4 July is the proper day of celebration.

It is those principles that have made us the nation we are today.

In President Lincoln’s words,

All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all”–the principle that clears the path for all–gives hope to all–and, by consequence, enterprise, and industry to all.

The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters!

To me those words, those timeless and universal principles in that Declaration, are the reason we are the greatest nation, and the reason that we have stayed strong through so many crisis, (we used as the basis for those principles in the Declaration, the laws of Nature & of Nature’s God, and referred to Him 4 times in that Declaration), that is why, again in my humble opinion, 4 July is the proper day to celebrate.