American Independence Day: July 4 or July 2?

On July 2, 1776, the American Continental Congress resolved “That these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States.”

In a letter written to Abigail Adams on July 3rd, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

The proper date for celebration of the declaration of independence is actually a little sketchy. After voting in favor of the resolution of independence, the Congress turned its attention back to the draft of the document itself. A few changes were made in the wording, and Congress deleted nearly a fourth of the text, most notably a passage critical of the slave trade.

Original draft by Thomas Jefferson showing edits by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin

On July 4, 1776, the new wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved and sent to the printer for publication. On July 8th it was read publicly for the first time, which is also the date on which a big party was held in Philadelphia. Most historians believe the document wasn’t signed until nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776. And the British didn’t hear about it until August 30th.

The upshot? There would be nothing wrong with having two months worth of picnics and parties.

Recipe for this flag cake is available at


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