DBWI: What if July 2 wasn't Independence Day

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 Shews, [1] Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

Thus wrote John Adams to his wife, in a letter dated July 3, 1776. As we all know, Adams was right, and "the Second of July"--the day the Continental Congress resolved that the United Colonies were and of right ought to be free and independent states--has become the most famous of days. (And of course Richard Henry Lee who on June 7 had introduced the resolution--seconded by John Adams--has become the most famous of all Americans.) "Second of July fireworks," "Second of July oratory" etc. have become catch phrases. People as different as Thurgood Marshall and Jerry Hall have written autobiographies accurately entitled *Born on the Second of July.*

But what if July 2nd *hadn't* been chosen as Independence Day? What are some alternatives?

(1) Some have suggested "the day Jefferson's Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America was signed." (This "declaration" was really of limited importance anyway; it was just a statement of reasons for something the Continental Congress had already resolved. Members of the Congress were required to sign the "declaration" as a sort of public loyalty oath, "to prevent traitors or spies from worming themselves among us" as Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania explained. ) The problem is that *there was no such single day.* In the original vote on July 4, the voting was by states and New York had abstained. Not until July 9 did the Provincial Congress of New York approve. On July 19, the Continental Congress finally resolved that the Declaration "be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and style of 'The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.'" But even then the document was not yet signed by its eventual fifty-five names. Not until August 2 did the journal of the Continental Congress note "The Declaration of Independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed by the members."

But as the historian Daniel Boorstin has noted:

"Actually this entry was not quite accurate because not all the signing was done even then. At least one signer, Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire did not subscribe his name until November (when he first became a member of the Continental Congress); at least five other 'signers' (Rush, Clymer, Smith, Taylor, and Ross, all of Pennsylvania) had not even been members of Congress on July 4; at least one (George Read of Delaware) now belatedly became a 'signer,' though on July 2 he had been present and refused to vote for independence." (*The Americans: The National Experience*, p. 379.)

So given the drawn-out nature of the process, and the secondary importance of the "declaration" itself, I think we can eliminate anything having to do with Jefferson's declaration as Independence Day.

(2) Maybe October 19, celebrating Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown in 1781? (But of course that has the drawback that it would almost require giving some of the credit to the French...)

(3) Maybe November 30 to celebrate the preliminary articles of peace of 1782? http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/prel1782.asp

(4) Or September 3 for the definitive Treaty of Paris of 1783? http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/paris.asp

Any thoughts on other possible days?

[1] Yes, that's the correct spelling, as the late Ed Sullivan would confirm.