Fighting began in 1775. The first motion for independence was made on June 4th, 1776. Congress voted unanimously for independence from Britain on July 2nd. So why is the 4th of July the birthday? That’s when the rewrites of the Declaration were finished.
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Sadly, the signing date of the final document beat out the day the actual decision was made. Of course, my birthday is the 4th, so I guess I shouldn’t complain about the 2 day delay too much. I just wish we’d stuck more with Washington’s observation of the holiday (a double ration of rum and an artillery salute). Not that anybody’s stopping me from having a double ration of rum… I just wish it was traditional.