Closing the Deal: Is America Celebrating the Wrong Independence Day?

vintage-american-flag-clip-art_355618We grow up in America celebrating July 4 as our Independence Day. History suggests, however, that this may be the wrong day. The Continental Congress had been considering declaring independence from England for a considerable time. After a five-person committee formed to draft the Declaration presented Thomas Jefferson’s draft to Congress at the end of June, Congress made further changes to the document.

On July 1, 1776, a vote was taken, with each colony having one vote. The original vote was 9-2 in favor. New York abstained because its delegation had not been authorized to vote on the issue, and Delaware could not make up its mind, as its two representatives were divided. The next day, South Carolina and Pennsylvania changed their votes to be in favor. And, a third representative arrived from Delaware and broke the tie. Thus, the final vote was 12-0 in favor, with one abstention.

The result is that the actual day the Declaration of Independence was adopted was July 2, 1776. So why do we celebrate July 4? The Continental Congress made minor changes to the declaration and did not settle on the final version for two more days, when the final form was signed and read to the public. As with many real estate transactions, the intended date came and went but the deal actually closed two days later.