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The Fourth of July
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On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event.

Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Lee's words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence, although the resolution was not followed up on immediately. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. However, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies' case for independence. Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.

On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!"

Today, the original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation.

Related Links

The Declaration of Independence @ HistoryChannel.com
Resource provides teaching materials, bios of the signers and related resources.

National Records and Archives Administration
Presents the history behind the Declaration of Independence, and the complete text.

Declaration of Independence Homepage
Duke University resource offers a look at the various incarnations of the Declaration, and how they differ from the final form.

Liberty! The American Revolution
PBS Online provides an inside look at the 1776 Continental Congress and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Marvellicious: Happy Fourth of July
General resource presents a brief history of Independence Day and fireworks, recipes, picnic games and Revolutionary War trivia.

Fourth of July Celebrations Database
Comprehensive collection of documents takes a look at the different ways the Fourth of July has been celebrated over the centuries.

Surfing the Net With Kids
Children's learning resource provides links to useful Websites on the Fourth of July.

U.S. Census Bureau
Dig up some little-known facts about the Fourth of July, including statistics involving famous names.

American Forces Information Service features an article with trivia questions on Independence Day.

The Holiday Zone
Peruse arts and crafts, games and other activities associated with this holiday, and find links to related books and resources.

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