The celebration of the 4th of July or Independence Day is rooted in America’s official severing of ties with Great Britain, when the Second Continental Congress drafted a document known as the Declaration of Independence. According to a discussion of the History of the Fourth by PBS, the committee responsible for writing the document included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Although the document was principally crafted by Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer, a total of 86 changes were made to his draft. The final version was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.
The custom eventually spread to other towns, both large and small, where the day was marked with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks. Observations throughout the nation became even more common at the end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain.
Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870, and in 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a holiday, but with full pay for federal employees. Today, communities across the nation mark this major midsummer holiday with parades, fireworks, picnics and the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and marches by John Philip Sousa.
Click here to find out about local celebrations.
During these turbulent times, never have the words of the spiritual been more true than when it declared, “there is trouble all over this world.” During times of desperation and deepest need, the nation cries out to God. The Psalmist remind us:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.
On this Fourth of July, when much that plagues our nation appears beyond our control, we not only celebrate our independence as a nation, but more than ever, we must also recognize our dependence upon God as well.
O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.
“America, the Beautiful,” one of the most popular patriotic songs, is sung in this version by Ray Charles in the video below.
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