The United States celebrates a birthday every July 4. On that date, people fly flags, shoot fireworks, have big family get-togethers and usually get the day off work. But do you know why it is such an important date in American history?
It goes back to 1776. The United States wasnít around back then. They were a colony of Great Britain. They were under the rule of the British king, King George. They had to do whatever he said and pay taxes to England. At first that was okay. But after many years, the people in America felt like Great Britain was giving them too many unfair rules and taking too much money from them. They felt like they could take care of themselves and no longer wanted to be part of the British Colonies.
Not everyone agreed. Some people were quite happy being part of Great Britain. Just over half the people wanted to form their own government. The others either didnít care or were happy with England.
The leaders of each colony met and prayed about what to do. It took a long time for them to make a decision. On June 28, 1776 they all agreed that they had tried long enough. It was time to tell the British King that America wanted independence!
Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write a letter to the king telling him all the best ideas the colonists had about living in freedom. It was a dangerous job, and Jefferson did it in hiding. If the British soldiers found out what he was doing, he would be in grave danger!
Everyone got back together on July 2 and suggested changes. Jefferson went back to work, putting in the new ideas. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress (the leaders of the colonies) all signed the paper and declared America to be a free nation.
A long war followed. It didnít always go well for the Americans. In fact, they lost more battles than they won. They just won all the important ones! The French joined the side of the colonists, sending soldiers and weapons, and together they fought to make America a free country.
When we listen to the explosion and smell the scent of the gunpowder and watch fireworks shooting above our heads, it is in memory of the men and women who fought to make America a free nation. When we get together with family and friends it is to celebrate the gift they gave us: freedom.