On June 23rd 1776, the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to discuss American independence from Great Britain. After days of debates, the congress voted in favour of independence on July 2nd 1776, but it wasn’t until two days later that the Declaration of Independence, a historic document which listed the reasons why the country should be free, was completed and adopted. Although the document is credited to Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, it was created in consultation with fellow committee members John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingston of New York, and is housed in the National Archives in Washington DC.
When the declaration was turned over to the full Congress for editing, Jefferson’s list of charges against The King of England included the false notion that George III was responsible for the slave trade and was preventing America from ending slavery. As Congress wanted no mention of slavery in the country’s founding document, the reference was omitted before the declaration was adopted by the 13 colonies America was divided into at the time. Kenneth C. Davis, American historian and bestselling author of the ‘Don’t Know Much About…’ series explains that “it leaves open the hard question: how could the men, who were about to sign a document celebrating liberty and equality, accept a system in which some people owned others?”
July 4th (sometimes referred to as Fourth of July or Independence Day) has been a federal holiday since 1941 although celebrations date back to the 18th century, with typical festivities including firework displays, parades and barbeques or gatherings with family and friends.
Although many firework displays have been cancelled this year due to concerns around social distancing, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledge that families will still want to celebrate together, and advise maintaining best practice to take precautions against the spread of coronavirus: “Gatherings that are smaller are better than gatherings that are large. Being able to maintain social distance or physical distance, at least six feet, is better than being in closer proximity. Being outdoors is probably better than being indoors. And being around people who are wearing face coverings is better than not around those — around people who are not utilizing face coverings,” advised CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Jay Butler, MD. “Being able to minimize the people that you are around, particularly people that you have not been around in the past, is particularly important.”
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