Here are ten facts you may not already know about Independence Day, gathered by Kenneth C. Davis, author of the Don’t Know Much About book series, and featured by CBS Morning.
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1. It was actually on July 2, 1776, that America declared (in writing) its independence. So why do we celebrate on July 4?
2. “The fact is that John Adams wrote home to Abigail on the 3rd that this day, July 2nd, will go down in history,” Davis explained on “CBS This Morning,” “We’ll celebrate it with parades and pomp and bells ringing and fireworks. And it was because Congress actually ruled it in favor of independence on July 2. But it was two days later, of course, that Congress then accepted Jefferson’s declaration, explaining the vote two days before that really got fixed in the America’s imagination as our birthday. July 2nd should be Independence Day.”
3. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on a “laptop,” a kind of writing desk that could fit on one’s lap.
4. Did you know Thomas Jefferson changed the wording of the Declaration of Independence from “the pursuit of property” to “the pursuit of happiness”?
“Jefferson did not come up with these words out of thin air,” Davis said on “CBS This Morning.” “These were words and ideas that had been floating around for a very long time. Other people had written about things like ‘the pursuit of property.’ Jefferson, I think can say we say happily changed that to the ‘pursuit of happiness’.”
5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826. Davis explained, “That may be the most extraordinary coincidence in all of history. On the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration…the two giants of the declaration both died. … Jefferson died first. Adams was alive, of course, in Massachusetts. He didn’t know that Jefferson had died but said, famously, perhaps apocryphally, that ‘Jefferson still lives.’ And people took that to mean his words will live forever.”
6. The Liberty Bell had nothing to do with July 4th. It wasn’t called the “Liberty Bell” until the 1830s and that’s also when it got its famous crack.
7. Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776 — John Hancock (not the big signature!) and Charles Thompson, secretary of the Congress.
8. Jefferson’s original draft was lost and the one eventually signed is the “engrossed” document and is kept at the National Archives.