What Is Independence Day and Why Do We Celebrate the 4th of July?

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Fourth of July, US Independence Day fireworks are seen over the US Capitol and National Monument in Washington, DC on July 4, 2013. (Getty)

The tradition of Independence Day goes back to the 18th Century and the dawn of the American Revolution. July 4, 1776 marks the day that the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, which freed the 13 colonies from British rule.

Though there is dispute over the official date that the declaration was signed, the general consensus was that representatives signed the document on or around August 1776. At first, when the colonies were settled, they were given the freedom to develop and operate themselves, with little interference from the British. In the early 1760s, however, Great Britain started taxing the colonies to assert their dominance. The colonies pushed back, arguing that since they didn’t have any representatives in Parliament, they shouldn’t have to pay taxes.

Eventually, the colonies decided to fight for their freedom in what is known as the American Revolution. The Second Continental Congress, which was created over the course of the American Revolution, drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was written by Thomas Jefferson and a committee of four men– Ben Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

So what is the Fourth of July, and why do we celebrate it? July 4 is the day that the Second Continental Congress adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence. Initially, people didn’t really celebrate the Fourth of July– America was still at war with Great Britain, after all, and tensions were high in the newly dubbed United States. By the end of the war in the 1780s, however, everyone gathered to celebrate July 4, and all that it stood for in regards to America’s independence.

Today in History July 4Highlights of this day in history: America's Declaration of Independence; Former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die on same day; Israel's raid at Entebbe; West Point opens; Lou Gehrig's farewell to baseball; Neil Simon born. (July 4)2013-07-04T04:14:53.000Z