You’re probably ready to celebrate July 4th.
But here’s the thing… July 4th doesn’t entirely make sense as America’s Independence Day
It’s the date on the Declaration of Independence, but most of the major events related to the actual fight for independence happened either before or after.
With that in mind, here are eight dates that might make more sense to celebrate American independence:
1. April 19, 1775: The “shot heard ‘round the world” ignites the Revolutionary War.
The mounting hostilities between the Colonies and Great Britain finally erupted into war with the beginning of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
It’s not clear which side fired first, but there’s no disputing that all-out war (perhaps inevitable) came afterward.
2. June 11, 1776: Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin assemble on the “committee of five.”
On June 11, the Second Continental Congress named the committee of five to draft a resolution on the issue of independence from Britain.
The committee of five was comprised of John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), Robert Livingston (New York), and Roger Sherman (Connecticut).
Initially, Adams was tasked with leading the writing efforts. But Adams, an outspoken northerner, knew that he would be too divisive, so he convinced the committee to make Thomas Jefferson the lead author.
Jefferson was still pretty young at the time (just 33 years old), so the other committee members helped guide him through the process.
In one iconic example, Jefferson originally wrote, “We hold these truths to be sacred and un-deniable…”
Ben Franklin changed the line to its more famous final version: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
3. July 2, 1776: Congress votes for Independence.
This would seem to be a natural choice as the day to celebrate. And it’s the date that John Adams favored.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.
“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.
“Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
“Pomp and Parade… Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations” …sounds a lot like July 4th, right?
It’s what Adams had in mind for July 2. Which, again, makes sense.
4. Aug. 2, 1776: When almost everyone actually signed the Declaration of Independence.
Know that iconic version of the Declaration of Independence — that one with all the signatures? That was signed on Aug. 2, 1776. It is believed that the only person who actually signed the Declaration on July 4th was John Hancock, who was the president of the Congress.
5. Oct. 19, 1781: Britain’s Gen. Cornwallis surrenders to American forces.
Gen. Charles Cornwallis, the leader of Britain’s forces, is captured and surrenders to American forces.
On Oct. 19, 1781, he officially signed the articles of capitulation — turning him and his men into prisoners of war, ending the last major North American battle of the Revolutionary War, and laying the groundwork for the beginning of negotiations to end the war.
6. Sept. 3, 1783: The Treaty of Paris officially ends the Revolutionary War
The Treaty of Paris officially ended the war between the colonies and Great Britain, and formally recognized these colonies as the independent “United States.”
There were three American negotiators at the Treaty talks: John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
7. Nov. 25, 1783: The last British troops leave the United States.
Also called “Evacuation Day,” this is then the final British troops in the United States left Manhattan.
Afterward, Gen. Washington led the triumphant Continental Army through New York City.
8. Sept. 17, 1787: The Constitution is adopted.
After winning independence, the new United States were bound together by the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” which recognized the 13 colonies as free, sovereign states that were united together (thus, the “United States”).
But that didn’t work out so well, for a variety of reasons, so the Constitution was eventually enacted as an alternative form of governance.