Brace yourselves! 4th of July is coming!

Most of us will be heading for a weekend long July 4th Independence Day celebrations with our families. While we look forward to the backyard barbeques, hotdogs and mustards and enjoying glorious fireworks displays, one thing that no can escape is the poignant patriots rattling off historical facts and shocking revelations about the Independence Day. So before you drown yourself in these facts-fictions patriotic tales, double check with our list of myths about United States’ Independence Day

Myth: America got independence on the Fourth of July.

Fact: America was declared independent from the Great Britain on July 2nd 1776 by the Continental Congress. The motion to declare the United Colonies and States as free and independent was presented to the congress by Richard Henry Lee on June 7th in which Lee stated, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” The constitutional congress approved this motion on July 2nd 1776 by an affirmative vote of 12 out of 13 states (New York abstained), making America (united colonies and states) an independent nation on the second day of July. This is evident even from John Adam’s letter to his wife, written on July 3rd 1776, in which he mentioned that henceforth July 2nd would be celebrated as the Independence Day by future Americans. In fact the first Independence Day celebration by Americans took place on the 8th July. On 8th July celebrations of Independence were first held in Philadelphia with a party, a parade and firing of guns.

So what happened on the 4th of July?

On July 4th 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was adopted by the congress (which is even mentioned in that document itself). The document merely expresses the Congress’ reasons for declaring independence to the united colonies and states of America. This resolution was merely a press release to publicly declare the 2nd July events. This declaration was signed by only two men President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson, which brings us to our next popularly believed independence fable.

Myth: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th 1776.

Fact: We all have encountered this one painting by John Trumbull which depicts the famous signing of declaration event held in Philadelphia on July 4th 1776. Three founding fathers- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin- also wrote of the signing ceremony held on July 4th. Thomas Jefferson even vividly remembered flies circling upon the heads of those signing the declaration of independence.

However, most scholars remark no such event ever happened.

So when was the declaration of Independence signed?

In 1884, historian Mellon Chamberlain came upon an entry for August 2nd 1776 from the manuscript minutes of the journal of Congress, which talked about the signing ceremony.

Timothy Matlack, assistant to the then secretary of Congress, presented a copy of the declaration of independence to the delegates on August 2nd 1776, when most of the delegates signed it. The signing was not completed till November 1776. The names on the document were made public in January 1777.

Myth: George Washington signed The Declaration of Independence.

Fact: As opposed to what might be obvious to many people, father of America, George Washington was not one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence document. George Washington was only the commander of the continental forces in 1776 and was not a delegate. On July 1776, George Washington only read the document out loud to a huge cheerful audience from the New York’s City Hall. Also the original Declaration of Independence is not stored safely in Washington City.

Myth: The Signers of the Declaration Were All Born In America

Fact: Even though the struggle for independence was against the British crown, eight delegates, amongst the firsts who signed the Declaration of Independence, were from the British Isles: Button Gwinnett, Francis Lewis, Robert Morris, James Smith, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton, James Wilson and John Witherspoon. The first published copy of the Declaration was printed by an Irishman, and most of the copies were put on Dutch paper. Of the 55 delegates to Congress more than a dozen were educated in Europe.

Myth: The Liberty Bell rang in and cracked upon American Independence. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.

Fact: Among many tales of America’s independence, a famous one is that a blonde-haired-blue-eyed boy gave a signal to ring the liberty bell and declare the independence of America. The bell was in fact rung so loud that it cracked. However, the story is suspect. This fable was constructed by George Lippard for his children’s book “Legends of the American Revolution”.  The Liberty Bell became a symbol of the antislavery movement by the abolitionists in the early 19th Century. The crack is only a fault of the design.

Just nearby is another tourist attraction in Philadelphia called the Betsy Ross House which houses a mannequin of Betsy Ross, sewing the first American flag. This also is in fact a fable popularized by Betsy’s grandson. In 1949, a study conducted by the Joint State Government Commission of Pennsylvania, proved that Betsy did not live in the ‘Betsy Ross house’.

So, who sewed the first flag of United States of America ?

While the United States flag was designed by Francis Hopkinson but as for who sewed the first flag, no one knows!

Myth: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July.

Fact: This is in fact true, but with a lot of add-on hype. On July 4, 1826, John Adams, the second president, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president, both died, exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. While this can really an astonishing coincidence, a long-related fable is that Thomas Adams’ last words were “Jefferson survives”. But Jefferson had died just hours before without Adams knowing it. Also the date of 4th July marks the death anniversary of James Monroe, the fifth president, who died on July 4, 1831.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872.

Myth: The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages

This myth actually originates from the blockbuster action film “National Treasure,” in which Nicholas Cage looked for an ancient treasure, the map of which is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. “… there is apparently a message written upside down at the bottom of the signed document: ‘Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776,'” reported Maria Vultaggio of the International Business Times.

So, who wrote it and Why?

It is not known who wrote it or when. The best guess that can be made is that since during the 18th Century, the large document would have been rolled for travel and storage, the reverse-side writing likely acted as a label to identify the document.

So while the historians will always be on the quest to uncover the truth of what, when, who, why; there is no denying that often the representation of the event has had more staying power than the event itself, the Fourth of July celebration marks a moment of immense pride, patriotism, traditions and gratitude to all those military families, leaders and our founding fathers who have devoted themselves to the making of United States of America as it stands today as a true world leader.

Wishing you all a very Happy 4th of July. Do share in comments your plans for the festivities.  

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