The Declaration of Independence

Initially, the American colonists did not seek to be separated from British rule, but felt highly aggrieved from a series of new taxes and policies (including the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, and the Coercive Acts) set over them by faraway England. Many felt that their rights as British citizens were being infringed upon and protested in sometimes costly and destructive fashion (e.g.: the Boston Tea Party), though these ordeals were mostly viewed, except by a few more radical voices, as an internal struggle within the confines of the British Empire.
Reconciliation with England proved impossible over the course of several years during which ports were closed, martial law was imposed, boycotts were placed, and skirmishes broke out in places like Lexington and Concord.
Thomas Paine published Common Sense in January of 1776 and much of the language within that pamphlet became the framework for the Declaration of Independence that would ultimately sever British Empirical rule over the American Colonies in favor of a new American nation now known as the United States.
The vote for American independence was held on July 2nd, 1776 and two days later the document was publicly published, marking the beginning of our nation.
Independence Day commemorates this historic event as a time for patriotic festivities and activities, including but not limited to speeches, feasts, musical performances, and family-oriented celebrations:

  • A "13-gun salute" was fired in the morning and evening in Rhode Island on July 4th 1777, perhaps the inspiration for the "Salute to the Union," a one-gun for each state salute held now at noon by any capable military base.
  • The first annual celebration of independence from England was held in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1777.
  • In 1778, General George Washington ordered extra rations for his troops in celebration of the date.
  • Massachusetts first made July 4th an official state holiday in 1781.
  • Bonfires were lit throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the evening before to usher in the holiday, and are still practiced in some places.
  • The most common modern practices of observing July the 4th is with public (or private) fireworks displays and parades.

Check out: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Independence-Day.shtml to read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, find great trivia, recipes, and safety tips.