The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America

Independence Day

{ The 4th of July }

  Independence Day is celebrated by the citizens of the United States of America on the 4th of July.

  Despite the connotation of the name, Independence Day was not the day on which independence from the mother country of Great Britain was actually won by the American colonies, but rather the day when it was declared.

  A webpage devoted to the Declaration of Independence can be accessed by clicking on this icon:

  The first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was noted in the Virginia Gazette of 18 July 1777.

  As seen in the image above, the Virginia Gazette reported:

 Philadelphia, July 5. Yesterday, the 4th of July, being the anniversary of the INDEPENDENCE of the United States of America, was celebrated in this city with demonstrations of joy and festivity. About noon all the armed ships and gallies in the river were drawn up before the city, dressed in the gayest manner, with the colours of the United States and streamers displayed. At 1 o'clock, the yards being properly manned, they began the celebration of the day by a discharge of 13 cannon from each of the ships, and one from each of the 13 gallies, in honour of the 13 United States. In the afternoon an elegant dinner was prepared for Congress, to which were invited the president and supreme executive councill, and speaker of the Assembly of this state, the general officers and colonels of the army, and strangers of eminence, and the members of the several continental boards in town. The Hessian band of musick, taken in Trenton the 26th of December last, attended and brightened the festivity with some fine performances suited to the joyous occasion, while a corps of British deserters, taken into the service of the continent by the state of georgis, being drawn up before the door, filled up the intervals with feux de joie, After dinner a number of toasts were drank, all breathing independence, and a generous love of liberty, and commemorating the memories of those brave and worthy patriots who gallantly exposed their lives, and fell gloriously, in defence of freedom and the righteous cause of their country. Each toast was followed by a discharge of artillery and small arms, and a suitable piece of musick by the Hessian band. The glorious 4th of July was reiterated three times, accompanied with triple discharges of cannon and small arms, and loud huzzas that resounded from street to street through the city. Towards evening several troops of horse, a corps of artillery, and a brigade of North Carolina forces, which was in town on its way to join the grand army, were drawn up in Second street, and reviewed by Congress and the general officers. The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with 13 rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and every memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age, till time shall be no more. Amen, and amen.

  Apparently the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania were fearful that the festivities would result in unrest, because they passed the following motion during their meeting on the morning of the 4th:

 On motion, agreed. That it be recommended to the Magistrates of the City to exert themselves in preventing any kind of Riot happening in the City this Evening...

  The second anniversary of the declaration announcing the independence of the thirteen English colonies was celebrated by General George Washington and his army. On 03 July 1778, Washington issued "After Orders" along with his General Orders:

 Tomorrow, the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence will be celebrated by the firing thirteen Pieces of Cannon and a feu de joie of the whole line; the Army will be formed on the Brunswick side of the Rariton at five o'Clock in the afternoon on the ground pointed out by the Quarter Master General. The Soldiers are to adorn their Hats with Green-Boughs and to make the best appearance possible. The disposition will be given in the orders of tomorrow. Double allowance of rum will be served out.

  General Washington issued the following General Orders on the next day, the 4th:

 At three o'Clock this afternoon a Cannon will fire at the Park as a signal for the troops to be put under Arms and formed ready to march. At four another signal Cannon for the Right to march by the Right over the Bridge to the Ground which shall be shewn them to form on. At half past four a third signal Cannon for the Left Wing to march by the Right and follow the Right Wing. At five a fourth Signal for the second Line to form on the ground which shall be shewn them. After the Army is formed, upon a signal by order of the Commander in Chief, thirteen Pieces of Cannon will be discharged, after which a single Cannon which will be a signal for a runing fire to begin on the right of the Army and be continued to the left with Musquetry and Cannon. At the Conclusion of which, on a signal, three Cheers will be given, "Perpetual and undisturbed Independence to the United States of America."

  On the third anniversary of the declaration of the Colonies' independence from Great Britain, General Washington sent a letter to Major General Alexander McDougall from his camp at New Windsor. In it Washington revealed the sentimentality he felt towards the anniversary:

 New Windsor, July 3, 1779. Dear Sir: I intend in the orders of tomorrow to publish and approve the sentences of DePeu, King, and Bettis; but as we have had frequent examples latterly in the main army, I feel reluctance at present to add to the number. I therefore Propose as it is the anniversary of our independence to proclaim a general pardon to all the prisoners now under sentence of death in the army...

  Isaac DePue and John King had been convicted of assisting in the seizure and conveyance of items and persons to the British then in possession of New York City. Joseph Bettis was convicted of spying for General Burgoyne. The General's general pardon prevented the three, along with others, from their sentences of death by hanging from the neck.

  In another letter to General McDougall, General Washington stated:

 New Windsor, July 4, 1779. Dear Sir: Today being the anniversary of independence you will be pleased to have it taken notice of by discharging thirteen pieces of cannon at one oClock. I wish we had it in our power to distribute a portion of rum to the soldiers, to exhilerate their spirits upon the occasion, but unfortunately our stock is too scanty to permit.

  The delegates to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia on 24 June 1779, brought to a vote the decision of whether or not to hold celebrations in the City that year. William Henry Drayton, of South Carolina made a Motion, which was seconded by Gouverneur Morris, of New York:

 Resolved, That Sunday the 4 day of July, being the anniversary of the declaration of the independence of these United States, the chaplains of Congress be requested to prepare sermons suitable to the occasion: a farther motion was made, That the President cause an entertainment to be prepared on the 5th of July, in celebration of the independence of these United States; on which the yeas and nays being required by Mr. [Henry] Marchant, So it was resolved in the affirmative.

  Of the delegates then assembled in Congress, twelve dissented: Whipple, of New Hampshire; Peabody, of New Hampshire; Marchant, of Rhode Island; Sherman, Huntingdon, and Spencer, of Connecticutt; Scudder and Fell, of New Jersey; Armstrong and Shippen, of Pennsylvania; Sharpe, of North Carolina; and Laurens, of South Carolina.

  On the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, on 04 July 1780, General Washington was quite preoccupied with matters of the War. His General Orders for the day noted simply: The Troops to be supplied with a jill of Rum pr. man this day in Case they have not already drawn.

  The 3rd of July 1782 found General Washington in camp at Newburgh, from which he issued his General Orders which included:

 Newburgh, Wednesday, July 3, 1782. Tomorrow being the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, the Commander in Chief is pleased to order that the remembrance of that auspicious Event shall be Celebrated by a Fue de Joye. The adjutant General will communicate the necessary Directions, the Army is to be served with an Extra gill of Rum per man on the Joyful Occasion.

  George Washington, no longer Commander in Chief of the Army, was at Mount Vernon in the year 1793 when he was approached by a group of citizens of the city of Alexandria to attend festivities they were planning. He answered them in a letter:

 To the President, Vice President, and Managers of the Celebration of the Anniversary of American Independence at Alexandria - Mount Vernon, July 1, 1793. Gentlemen: The very polite invitation which you have given me in the name of the Citizens of Alexandria, to celebrate with them the approaching Anniversary of American Independence, is received by me as a mark of attention meriting my warmest thanks, and as the best proof I can give of my feelings on the occasion will be to accept the invitation, I shall accordingly have the pleasure of meeting them at Alexandria on the 4 instant. I am etc.

  Throughout the colonies, the Americans celebrated each succeeding year with parties that included "sky rockets" and cannon salutes. The salutes invariably consisted of thirteen volleys honoring the thirteen colonies.

  In the year 1783, the municipal leaders of the city of Boston passed a vote declaring the 4th of July as an official holiday.

  In 1870 Congress designated the 4th of July as an unpaid Federal holiday for Federal employees.

  The 4th of July was officially recognized as a paid Federal holiday in the year 1931. But that designation did not transform it into a National holiday. Each state has the right to designate any day as a holiday, and being a paid Federal holiday simply means that Federal employees, no matter in which state they work, have the day off work and are paid. A National holiday would be one which is celebrated by all citizens in all the fifty states and the District of Columbia. The fact of the matter is that there exist no National holidays in the United States of America.