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Americans celebrate 231 years of freedom

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2007-06-28

Americans around the world are planning picnics, barbeques, parades, speeches and fireworks over the next few days as the United States celebrates its 231st birthday, and those stationed here are no exception.

Wednesday marks America’s birthday, and from Alaska to Okinawa to the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, celebrations of all sorts will take place. In Okinawa, the American Consulate and American Chamber of Commerce are co-hosting an invitation-only old fashioned upscale picnic, while Kadena Air Base will be having festivities followed by fireworks. Army, Navy and Marine Corps officials are still finalizing their plans. Military personnel should check with base Morale, Welfare and Recreation offices for specifics.

July 4, 1776 is the official date of America’s birth, although a flurry of events leading to independence began more than a year earlier. A series of 13 colonies populated what is now the United States, all under the rule of England’s King George III. Irritated by being overtaxed without any say riled the colonialists, and in 1774 they demanded change. The colonies created a First Continental Congress, but delegates couldn’t agree what to do, leading British troops became forceful with an increased presence in the colonies.

The Continental Congress tried again, and again, and finally had enough. A committee in June 1776 composed the document that ultimately became the Declaration of Independence. Nine of the 13 colonies favored independence, two—Pennsylvania and South Carolina—were opposed. Delaware couldn’t decide which way to go, while New York opted to abstain.

The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4th, published in a Philadelphia newspaper two days later, and read in public July 8th. The document wasn’t fully legal until early August, when all congressmen had signed. Still, the decision was made to make July 4th THE day.

July 4, 1777 marked the first birthday celebration, and from there the traditions grew. Fireworks were added to the parades and picnics in the early 1800’s. By 1870, Independence Day was the biggest secular holiday in the young country. From the Atlantic coast to the newly founded forts and outposts in the rugged west, the holiday was loudly celebrated.

The United States of America, 231 years old on Wednesday.

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