Today, July 2nd, rather than July 4th, is the actual day that independence of the territories that were to become the United States from Britain was first approved. This came in the form of a resolution that attorney Richard Henry Lee, a Virginian, proposed to the Second Continental Congress.
The brief document read:
Resolved, 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.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
The motion was approved by 12 of the 13 colonies. Indeed, John Adams, of Massachusetts, who seconded Lee's proposal, was so certain that a great step had been taken that he wrote to his wife Abigail:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Now, 238 years later, the festival is held on the 4th, when the delegates approved the wordier, some would say grander, announcement of the decision by Thomas Jefferson, who composed it in the absence of Lee, who had rushed back to Virginia due to his wife's illness.
In honor of someone born on this great day, however, let us fire off an imaginary firecracker.