Happy Independence Day!! Since I post on Tuesdays and the Fourth of July is on a Tuesday, it seemed only fitting that I should talk about the history of this holiday and why it’s significant.
Okay so, there have been people coming across England to settle in the “New World” for over a hundred years. The French and Indian War just ended (also called the Seven Year’s War). In 1764, the year after this war ended, British Parliament passed a series of acts called the Grenville Acts, which were basically these series of decrees that put the debt of this recent war on the colonists by raising their taxes. The colonists were understandably not happy about this. They complained to Parliament, basically saying, “We did not fight in this war. Why are we stuck paying for it?!” However, Parliament overturned their complaint. This started stirring up tension, because the colonists felt they weren’t represented in Parliament. The phrase “no taxation without representation” started appearing and rumors started swirling about war. So what did Parliament do? They put MORE taxes on certain goods. The colonists response was to simply refuse to buy said goods. This continues for a few years until Parliament passes the Townshend Acts. The city of Boston decides not to let these ships into the harbor. The British government sends military ships to stop this boycott. The military stays in Boston, and at this point (1770) the so-called “Boston Massacre” occurred, only increasing further tensions. A few years after, the Tea Act goes into effect, resulting in what is commonly known as the Boston Tea Party, where colonists boarded ships loaded with taxed tea and threw it into the harbor or smashed and burned it. After this, the British government closed the Boston harbor for trade and other goods. Only military and approved cargo could go through. This obviously angered the residents of Boston and every other colony. So even though the harbor was closed, the other colonies sent loads of supplies to Boston. Because of this, in early 1775 Massachusetts was declared to be in a state of rebellion, closing all of Massachusetts, not just Boston. The colonists in Massachusetts started forming militias that the British army was sent to disperse these. That’s what basically started the American War for Independence. The first “battles” were skirmishes between the British military and civilian militias. The first few battles were Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. These all occurred in 1775. The following year, 1776, delegates from the colonies met in Philadelphia. After less than a month of debating and writing, they adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This declaration said they were now an independent country who no longer relied on Great Britain. The Declaration did not stop this war, however. It merely fanned these skirmishes into a full-blown war. The War for Independence (or American Revolution) endured for another 7 years after the Declaration was adopted.
Once the Declaration of Independence was written and adopted, it changed the course of the war. For the British, they needed to win so they could beat the colonists back into submission. For the colonists, they needed to win so they could show Great Britain that they didn’t need them. For a while, it looked like the British Empire was going to win and that the colonists were going to be back under their rule. However, the colonists sent a group of ambassadors to France, the British Empire’s sworn enemy (especially after the Seven Year’s War). The king of France agreed to help the American colonists, and he sent guns and ships to help them. The renewed supplies helped to give the colonists the morale and equipment they needed. They turned the tides and started winning more battles and, ever so slowly, driving the British military away. Spain joined the effort, especially in the southern portion of the country, where they had their own claims.
Finally, on October 19, 1781, British General Cornwallis surrendered to the American colonists after the Battle of Yorktown. However, it wasn’t until September 3, 1783, that the official Treaty of Paris was signed, officially declaring the war to be over. The colonies had won, and by doing so had shown to the British Empire (and the rest of the world) that Americans can hold their own (obviously, they had help from other countries). These colonies got together to establish a government and a name for themselves. They decided on the United States of America, and thus our great nation was born.
I go through all of this history to come to why we celebrate the 4th of July. Although the War did not end until September of 1783, we Americans remember July 4, 1776, as the day where we set ourselves free from English rule. Although I know sometimes it feels as if the government is in control of all of us, we celebrate this holiday as the last time we were under someone else’s control. This year marks 241 years. There are a lot of other countries that have fallen under other country’s control, turmoil, and chaos. But (for the most part at least) America has avoided those three things. So Happy 4th of July!! Be sure to celebrate our anniversary of freedom!!!!