By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?
Of course, it’s the Fourth of July, our oldest holiday. July 4, 1776, is when Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
However, it was not “independence” that was being celebrated, but the “declaration” of independence.
It took the American Revolutionary War to win the independence of the former British colonies – and that wasn’t won until The Treaty of Paris was signed on Sept. 3, 1783, and ratified by the U.S. Congress on Jan. 14, 1784.
But that was just the first war for independence. There was a second war for independence that began on June 18,1812. It’s best known as the War of 1812.
Britain was at war with Napoleon, was blockading the coasts of America and Europe, was impressing (seizing) thousands of U.S. sailors to serve in the British Navy, imposing all sorts of trade restrictions.
So the United States declared war on Britain. The war was fought in the Atlantic Ocean, on the Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier and in the southern states.
In 1814, the Royal Navy was able to enter Chesapeake Bay, bringing British troops who attacked the new nation’s new capitol in Washington, D.C.
President James Madison and his wife were forced to flee to Virginia. It’s said that the British commanders ate the supper prepared for Madison – before burning the White House, the Treasury and other public buildings.
America’s greatest victory, Andrew Jackson’s defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans, on Jan. 8, 1815, came after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814, insured our independence.
But let’s go back to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
It was declared on July 4, but it wasn’t until after Aug. 2, 1776, that the majority of the 56 signers put their names to it.
Long before that, the Declaration of Independence was publicly read “in demonstrations of joy” in Philadelphia, Williamsburg, New York, Trenton, N.J., and other cities.
• July 4, 1777, Philadelphia held the largest and most elaborate celebration of the declaration, with music being provided by a Hessian band (the Hessians captured by Washington at Trenton).
• July 4, 1778, from his headquarters in Brunswick, N.J., Gen. George Washington issued a double ration of rum to his army and ordered a Fourth of July artillery salute.
• July 4, 1779, for the first time since independence was declared, July 4 was a Sunday. The celebration was postponed until July 5.
• July 4, 1781, the Massachusetts’ Legislature resolved to hold the first official state celebration.
• July 4, 1782, at Saratoga, N.Y., the “officers of the Regement” of the Continental Army celebrated with toasts and a “volley of Musquets” at the end of each toast.
• July 4, 1783, Alexander Martin of North Carolina was the first governor to issue a state order for celebrating the fourth.
Now, all of the above celebrations took place before we had achieved our independence. We were celebrating our Declaration of Independence while we were still fighting for our independence.
Yes, on Independence Day, we should celebrate the “Declaration” of Independence, just as they did before independence was won.
Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org