This is the Fourth of July, the day that America declared its independence from Britain. The formal Declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson and then ratified by all thirteen colonies on this date in 1776.
This is the popular tale that is celebrated throughout the United States, and yet it is full of myths. Indeed, there isn’t a single element of this story that fully rings true.
The American colonies actually declared their independence from Britain on the Second of July. In fact, future President John Adams later wrote to his wife Abigail that “the second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.”
And the Declaration of the Second of July was written by Richard Henry Lee, who (like Jefferson) was a Virginian supporter of the principle of independence. Historians refer to Lee’s Declaration as the Lee Resolution, or as the Resolution of Independence.
Finally, only twelve colonies ratified the resolution on that day. New York, a bastion of Loyalist sympathizers that would remain comfortably occupied by the British Army for most of the Revolutionary War, abstained during the vote.
So what actually happened on the Fourth of July? That was the day when the Continental Congress, having already declared its independence, agreed to publish a “broadside statement” to the world that elaborated on the Lee Resolution.
The broadside statement is the famous document that was mostly written by Jefferson. But it incorporated the entire Resolution of Independence, originally composed by Richard Henry Lee, into its final paragraph.
So it is perfectly understandable why the Fourth of July is now celebrated as the Day of Independence throughout the United States. Nevertheless, it is amusing to note that America will forever celebrate its independence on the wrong day.