The 4th of July is a day filled with food, fun, and flags, but what do your children know about why we celebrate on that day? The history of American independence forms the basis for many more lessons in history and civics. In fact, it’s one of our favorite holidays and the kids look forward to it every year. Make the holiday a fun-filled history lesson by introducing the following facts!
5 Facts about the 4th: What Every Child Should Know about Independence Day
1. On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. Two days before, the Continental Congress—a gathering of delegates from the 13 colonies—voted unanimously to accept the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was a document which claimed that the colonies were now separated from England.
2. The Declaration was a response to unfair treatment from the crown. The Declaration of Independence included a list of grievances, or complaints about how England was mistreating the colonies. They included “imposing Taxes without our Consent,” “cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world,” and “Quartering large bodies of troops among us” in their list of grievances. Many of these grievances formed the basis for the Bill of Rights, a later document that laid out the rights of all American citizens.
3. The Declaration was signed over a year after the Revolutionary War had begun. In the year since the first shots of the war were fired at Lexington and Concord, support for independence from Britain soared in popularity. Although they had already been fighting for independence, the Declaration legally separated the governments of the colonies from the English government. American soldiers would still have to fight for another seven years before gaining victory.
4. Two future presidents signed the Declaration. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both had a hand in the creation of the Declaration. While Jefferson wrote most of the document, Adams was also part of the committee that drafted it. Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and, famously, John Hancock were among the signers, as well as Benjamin Harrison, whose descendants would include two U.S. Presidents. Interestingly, July 4th is not the date that the Declaration was signed—rather, signatures were added between August 2nd and late November.
5. Americans have been celebrating the 4th of July ever since! Independence Day celebrations have been a popular holiday since the original July 4th. Across the new nation, Americans gathered around bonfires, held joyful concerts and parades, and fired cannons and muskets in celebration. Some former colonists even held mock funerals for King George III in order to symbolize the end of monarchic rule. Massachusetts became the first state to declare the 4th a state holiday. In 1870, Congress voted to make it into a federal holiday.
As kids enjoy watermelon slices and fireworks, they can think of how America’s founding fathers gathered to change the course of history. The success of American independence inspired countries all over the world to free themselves from the reign of unjust monarchies. By celebrating the Fourth of July, we celebrate the principles of democracy and freedom.