WebHeader_Grove.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Your gift by 7PM will be matched dollar-for-dollar by our Member Match Fund!

John Adams Wanted Independence Day On July 2, Not July 4

Founding Father John Adams thought that America's independence day celebration should be on July 2, not July 4. July 2, 1776 was day the Continental Congress voted for independence. (Karsun Designs Photography/Flickr)
Founding Father John Adams thought that America's independence day celebration should be on July 2, not July 4. July 2, 1776 was day the Continental Congress voted for independence. (Karsun Designs Photography/Flickr)

As the Founding Fathers established the United States of America, they had their eyes on the future and they knew they were making history. But not everyone had the same opinion of the timeline of that history.

Most thought the big day was July 4, when then Continental Congress approved the text of the Declaration of Independence and sent it to the printer. But John Adams believed July 2, 1776, was the really the big day.

In one of the two letters he wrote to his wife Abigail from Philadelphia on July 3, 1776, John Adams said: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

July 2 was the day the Continental Congress voted for independence. It approved a resolution that said: “these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have, full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”

On the day they took that vote, John wrote to Abigail: “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.”

That is, of course, exactly what happens now on the Fourth of July, not the second.

John Adams, who was right about so much, was also right about the way we would celebrate independence. Just not the date.

Reporter

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.