John Adams Wanted Independence Day On July 2, Not July 4

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(Karsun Designs Photography/Flickr)
(Karsun Designs Photography/Flickr)

As the Founding Fathers established the United States of America, they had their eyes on the future and they knew they were making history. But not everyone had the same opinion of the timeline of that history.

Most thought the big day was July 4, when then Continental Congress approved the text of the Declaration of Independence and sent it to the printer. But John Adams believed July 2, 1776, was the really the big day.

In one of the two letters he wrote to his wife Abigail from Philadelphia on July 3, 1776, John Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival."

July 2 was the day the Continental Congress voted for independence. It approved a resolution that said: "these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have, full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do."

On the day they took that vote, John wrote to Abigail: "It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. 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."

That is, of course, exactly what happens now on the Fourth of July, not the second.

John Adams, who was right about so much, was also right about the way we would celebrate independence. Just not the date.


This segment aired on July 3, 2015.

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Alex Ashlock Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock was a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.



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