Fourth of July 2018: What is the history behind America's biggest national holiday?
Celebration of signing of Declaration of Independence marked every year with spectacular fireworks, family barbecues and baseball games
Americans celebrate the Fourth of July every year, with 2018 marking the 242nd anniversary of the founding of the United States. An occasion for parties, barbecues and fireworks, this is the most significant national holiday in the American calendar, an unabashed expression of patriotic pride. For the unitiated, here’s everything you need to know.
What is it?
The occasion honors the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Founding Fathers on 4 July 1776. In putting quill to parchment, these 56 statesmen – Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin among them – renounced the British Empire and pronounced the North American colonies free states. A modern superpower was born.
What’s the story behind it?
The British Empire had built a commanding presence in the New World since Sir Walter Raleigh led the first attempts to establish settlements on the east coast in the late Elizabethan era.By the 18th century, North America was governed from London and comprised of the Thirteen Colonies, consisting of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.
Primarily agricultural lands, the Thirteen Colonies were exploited by their imperial rulers for their resources, particularly the territories’ lucrative tobacco crops. While relations between settlers and the Crown were initially amicable, tensions began to escalate under King George III over opposition to the imposition of British laws and taxes, notably the Stamp Act. A growing spirit of nationalism swelled among the native-born.
Further ill-feeling was fostered by the Coercive Acts, known as the “Intolerable Acts” among American Patriots, which retracted Massachusetts’ semi-independence as punishment for the Tea Party humiliation.
Two Continental Congresses were staged bringing together delegates from the Thirteen Colonies to coordinate the resistance. At the second meeting in Philadelphia in 1775, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the American War of Independence declared, with open combat erupting in Concord, Massachusetts, that April. The conflict would rage for eight years, until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The declaration was drafted by the Committee of Five – Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston – and established citizens’ “unalienable” rights, observing that “all men are created equal” and enshrining the individual’s entitlement to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
The draft was submitted to Congress on 28 June 1776, voted into law on 2 July and formally ratified on 4 July, a date that has been celebrated by patriotic Americans ever since. It was first published in The Pennsylvania Evening Post two days later.
How has it been celebrated through history?
The first readings of the Declaration were made in Philadelphia squares and met with bonfires and the ringing of bells. In Bristol, Rhode Island, a salute of 13 gunshots in the morning and evening marked the day in 1777, the country’s first formal 4 July celebration and a point of pride in the town to this day, which has held an annual parade since 1785.
In 1778, George Washington, then a general in the revolutionary army, issued his troops with a double rum ration to cheer the day. The first recorded music commemorating independence was the “Psalm of Joy”, written by Johann Friedrich Peter in Salem, North Carolina, in 1783. Congress made the day an unpaid national holiday for federal workers in 1870 but it has been a paid vacation since 1938.
How do people celebrate it today?
All major cities hail 4 July with spectacular fireworks displays, the White House giving its own. The occasion is otherwise marked in towns across America with picnics, baseball games, marches, brass bands playing John Philip Sousa tunes and performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
As a national holiday, it also serves as an occasion for family reunions and vacations.
History of the Association is a work in progress
The Association of probation Supervisors Celebrated its 50th year in 2014. It is the strength of the coalition between our Membership-Supervising Deputy Probation Officers, Supervising Detention Supervisors, and Supervising Transportation Deputies as well as our continued relationship with SEIU 721 that affords us our strength and unity. In 2017 our Association formed Lodge 702 Fraternal Order of Police, with this came a Legal Defense Fund that will offer legal services to our members who decide to join the Lodge as well. Below is a brief history our Association dating back to 1969 which is taken directly from our second contract.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Employee Relations Ordinance of the County of Los Angeles and applicable State law, Joint Council of Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Association/Los Angeles County Employees Association was certified on December 10, 1969 by County’s Employee Relations Commission (Employee Relations Commission File No. 23-69) as the majority representative of County employees in the Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Employee Representation Unit (hereinafter “Unit”) previously found to be appropriate by said Employee Relations Commission. Management hereby recognizes Joint Council of Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Association/Los Angeles County Employees Association as the certified majority representative of the employees in said Unit. The term “employee” or “employees” as used herein shall refer only to employees employed by the County in said Unit in the employee classifications listed in Article 7, Salaries, as well as such classes as may be added hereafter by the Employee Relations Commission. Notwithstanding the above, if Management and Joint Council agree on exclusivity, then it will become effective in this Unit.
It is the purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding to promote and provide for harmonious relations, cooperation and understanding between Management and the employees covered herein; to provide an orderly and equitable means of resolving any misunderstandings or differences which may arise under this Memorandum of Understanding; and to set forth the full and entire understanding of the parties reached as a result of good faith negotiations regarding the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment of the employees covered hereby, which understanding the parties intend jointly to submit and recommend for approval and implementation to County’s Board of Supervisors. Take note that there were only two classes of probation Supervisors, the SDPO's and the Transportation Supervisors. The Salary in 1972 was: SDPO $1170.00-1485, and the Transportation Supervisors' pay scale was $819-1020.00