Declaration of Independence

Was the United States of America truly born on the 4th of July in 1776? Why was this day chosen? 

Are Americans hosting parades and launching fireworks on the wrong day? Yes, according to extremists. Where is the idea of another birthdate coming from and how did history determine America’s birthday? 

The primary extremist attack against the United States’s birthdate comes from the 1619 Project, which seeks “to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year.” This New York Times journalism project cites 1619 as the start of slavery in Virginia and therefore America’s beginning.

This false birthday is one of many fallacies in the 1619 Project, which is being implemented in hundreds of schools as a partner with critical race theory. In 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, anthropologist Peter Wood refutes its primary fallacy by explaining that Spaniards brought African slaves to Georgia in 1526, native tribes enslaved each other and other examples of a broad view of slavery.

Peter Salem

Peter Salem represents the color red in the flag.

Why is July 4 worthy of celebration as the nation’s birthday? The short answer is that the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

But why wasn’t another date from the Revolutionary War designated as the nation’s start? After all, the first shots of the American Revolution were fired on April 19, 1775, when the British military attempted to seize gunpowder stores at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Wouldn’t April 19 be a better birthdate?

The problem with this date is that not enough Americans were ready for independence in 1775. The new phrase united colonies was used in newspapers only three dozen times before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, according to GenealogyBank.com. In the following year, united colonies appeared more than 800 times in newspapers. The colonists were clearly united against King George’s tyranny, but weren’t united in what to do about it. Many were terrified at separating from England.

They raise prejudices in the minds of people and serve to create in their minds a terror at a separation from a people (in England) wholly unworthy of us,” Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams in December 1775, after the Continental Congress urged New Hampshire to create an independent legislature. Not enough colonists were ready for independence.

What changed? In August 1775, King George declared the colonies were in rebellion and ordered farms seized. Hope came in January 1776 when Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a best-selling pamphlet advocating independence.

Time has been given for the whole people, maturely to consider the great question of independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their fears, and allure their hopes, by discussing it in newspapers and pamphlets, by debating it in assemblies … (and) in private conversations, so that the whole people in every colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own act,” John Adams wrote in July 1776. Hopes for reconciliation were extinguished.

1776 Drum

“This will cement the Union, and avoid those heats and perhaps convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a declaration six months ago.”

Hence July 4, 1776, became the nation’s birthday because it marked the moment that Americans were united in declaring independence from England. 

Adams believed independence would “be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival” through “pomp and parade” and “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

His cousin concurred. “People, I am told, recognize the resolution (of independence) as though it were a decree promulgated from Heaven,” Samuel Adams wrote on July 27, 1776.

Samuel also tapped another reason that July 4 is America’s birthdate. In addition to unity, the Declaration gave Americans a new identity. Gone were the colonies. Replacing them were states.

In this letter, Samuel habitually chose the word colonies before correcting himself. “Or as I must now call them STATES.”

Evidence of this new identity is also found in historical newspapers. The phrase united states appeared a handful of times in newspapers between 1773 and July 4, 1776, to describe an alliance between two nations, Spain and Morocco. Hence, by using the phrase states instead of colonies, the founders carved a new identity as a nation of equal powers. The phrase united states appeared over 600 times between July and December 1776.

Yet, another birthdate option remains. Why didn’t the founders designate September 3, 1783, marking the peace treaty between America and Britain, as America’s birthdate?

A sermon celebrating this peace treaty by Continental Congress chaplain George Duffield concluded that America was born in a day — not after an eight-year war. 

Who since time began, hath seen such events take place so soon?” Duffield proclaimed, paraphrasing Isaiah 66:8. “The earth has indeed brought forth, as in a day. A nation has indeed been born, as at once.”

The Declaration solved many but not all injustices. Yet it inspired hope for correcting the most glaring of injustices. Leaders for each major civil rights movement rightfully claimed the Declaration applied to them.

Susan B. Anthony declared that women were part of the Declaration’s consent of the governed and should vote. Martin Luther King claimed the Declaration was a promissory note for black Americans that demanded fulfillment through the 1960s civil rights legislation.

Former slave and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett put it best in 1910 in Original Rights magazine: “The flower of the 19th century civilization for the American people was the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of all manhood. Here at last was squaring of practice with precept, with true democracy, with the Declaration of Independence and with the Golden Rule.”

Indeed. July 4 remains worthy of celebration as America’s birthday because of the Declaration of Independence and the civil rights movements that it birthed. Ideologies and movements not based on the Declaration’s philosophy that all are created equal in God’s image with individual rights are typically aligned with Marxism and communism and should be rejected — soundly.

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