On July 4, 2022, the United States of America celebrated its 246th birthday. What lead to the establishment of the United States is a fascinating story worthy of study and celebration.
In April, 1775, at the beginning of the Revolution, a majority of colonists did not seek independence from Great Britain. Some were pro-crown and others were ambivalent. Those who desired independence were considered radical. However, through the efforts of men like John and Sam Adams, Joseph Warren, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin and George Washington, the cause for freedom gained strength by 1776. Counted among the ranks of supporters were a diverse mixture of intellectuals, farmers, craftsmen and businessmen. The army was comprised of men from numerous ethnical backgrounds including Brits, Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Scotsmen and Swedes. Together, they began to mold a new identity…Americans.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, introduced a motion for the creation of an independent America. After nearly a month of debates, a vote was held - a vote that would change the world. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence.
The magnitude of what happened on July 2 was not lost on John Adams. The delegate from Massachusetts, who would later become our first Vice President and our second President of the United States, was a principled man who worked tirelessly for the cause of America. Elated with the Continental Congress’ decision to break free from England, he wrote to his wife, Abigail, about the momentous vote. For Adams, the vote to declare independence was cause for great celebration. He wrote:
- The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epocha, 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 shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
Two days later, on the 4th of July, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. While Adams may have been mistaken about the date for celebration, he was correct about the annual commemoration that would follow. On the first anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration, celebrations were held across America and, most especially, in Philadelphia. Festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets. It wouldn’t be until 1783 that America finally won her struggle for independence, but the struggle to fully implement our ideals has continued since our founding.
Inspired by her lofty goals, America remains a work in progress. While not perfect, our country represents the greatest experiment with freedom in the history of the world. For the first time, a nation was based on a creed. America was a country unique in that it looked, not to kings, queens or military conquest for authority, but to natural rights. Our Founders believed in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Although the Founding was imperfect in its implementation of those rights, the Founders undoubtedly sowed the seeds of freedom which we enjoy.
On this Fourth of July, consider how fortunate we are to live in this great land. Sadly, many in the world don’t know freedom. Billions of people across the globe live under the rule of oppressive governments. While we Americans argue political and social issues of the day, our form of government and way of life remain the envy of the world. It is why, since our founding, hundreds of millions have sacrificed to come to our shores. No country in the world has welcomed as many immigrants as the United States. Others saw (and continue to see) America as the land of opportunity. As long as we are committed to pursuing freedom, we shall remain the destination for those seeking to live the fullness of their God-given rights.
Joseph F. Frattone is a partner in CIPRIANI & WERNER, P.C.’s Philadelphia office and a member of the firm's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.