On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, effectively forming the United States of America and announcing the sovereignty of the 13 American colonies.
“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
– Extract from the Declaration of Independence
On July 2nd, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain, amidst a revolutionary war between the two nations which commenced in 1765. Two days later, the congress approved the Declaration of Independence, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson (who later served as the 3rd President of the USA), marking the end of British rule in the colonies – although the colonies did not truly have independence until the conflict’s end 7 years later.Every year, Independence Day is celebrated in spectacular fashion across the USA on the 4th of July. Acknowledgement of the anniversary of the USA’s independence dates back as far as 1777 and traditions have hardly changed since; red, white and blue bunting was erected, speeches and parades were organised, celebratory feasts were consumed and firework displays were observed in Philadelphia and Rhode Island. Interestingly, it was not until 1938 that congress made Independence Day a paid federal holiday, although it had been an unpaid holiday for federal employees since 1870.