Why We Celebrate 4th of July

The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, celebrates the country's separation from the British Empire in 1776 and the founding of the U.S.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, "declaring that the thirteen American colonies were no longer part of the British Empire but now the United States of America," the U.S. Government Publishing Office says.

The Library of Congress explains: "The Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States, however, the Declaration, with its eloquent assertion 'all Men are created equal,' is equally beloved by the American people."

The Beginnings of Separation

A proposal for independence was first introduced by Virginia's Richard Henry Lee, a member of the Continental Congress, on June 7 in 1776, which was known as the Lee Resolution.

The resolution consisted of three sections—a declaration of independence, a call to form foreign alliances, and "a plan for confederation," according to the document from the U.S. National Archives.

The Lee Resolution 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."

According to the National Archives: "The Lee Resolution was an expression of what was already beginning to happen throughout the colonies.

"The Congress gradually took on the responsibilities of a national government. In June 1775 the Congress established the Continental Army as well as a continental currency. By the end of July of that year, it created a post office for the 'United Colonies,'" the website says.

The Declaration of Independence

On July 2, 1776, the Lee Resolution was passed by Congress and two days later on July 4, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence.

While a declaration of independence had been made, members of the Continental Congress had not yet signed the document. It wasn't until August 2 that it became official when most delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, according to the U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) website.

The Declaration of Independence contains five parts—the introduction, the preamble, the body (which has two sections) and a conclusion.

The National Archives explains the introduction outlines the "causes" that made separation from the British Empire necessary. The declaration ends with a closing statement saying "a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

July 4 celebrations

On July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, John Adams, who later became the second president of the U.S., spoke about the celebrations to come for the country's independence, including "bonfires and illuminations."

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 letter read, according to the NPS website.

July 4 fireworks in 2018 in Washington,D.C.
Fireworks displayed over the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument on July 4, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images