This Currier & Ives lithograph reproduction shows members of the Declaration Committee (left to right: Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and John Adams) working at a table.
The Continental Congress, representing the 13 colonies of America met together in Philadelphia in 1776. After many debates, discussion and votes, the Congress approved a final version of a proclamation that declared independence from the British Government.
For many years, the people of the American colonies had become increasingly frustrated with what they believed to be unfair taxation and control by Britain. Rebellions, such as the Boston Tea Party of 1773, occurred.
These feelings continued to multiply until the first battles of the Revolutionary War broke out in April of 1775. Still many of the colonists did not wish for complete independence from Great Britain. By the next year however, animosity for the government had increased dramatically. Much of this spirit can be attributed to a best selling pamphlet called "Common Sense" written by Thomas Paine, a Philadelphia journalist. The book presented strong reasons for American Independence and served as a rallying point for the people.
In June of that year, the Continental Congress met. The Virginia representative Richard Henry Lee called for independence. After heated debate, the Congress appointed a five-man committee to write a charge supporting the sever from England.
Those delegates, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York, presented the document and on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence.
Two days later, July 4, 1776, the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence was made.
The American Revolution continued until the British surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia in 1779,
From its first public readings, the Declaration of Independence was celebrated with spontaneous applause, gun fire, bell ringing and fireworks.
While the war continued, the celebrations were somewhat insignificant, but once freedom was indeed earned, July 4 was exuberantly celebrated as the date honoring the beginning of American Independence.