On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a “resolution of independence” that declared the United States independent of British rule. The Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) had been working since June 11 on an official statement proclaiming independence and they hurried to finish the final statement. Two days later congress ratified the text and on July 5, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was published.
On July 3, John Adams had written a letter 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.”
Two hundred and thirty-nine years later, we look back and see that John Adams’ expectations were right except for two things - the date of the celebration and being “commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”