Birthplace of a Nation
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its
best state is but a necessary evil...."
----- Excerpted from Common Sense by Thomas Paine ----
To many of us who spend our 4th of July at an outdoor barbecue, watching
baseball, or in the grips of yet another holiday sale at the mall, the real
meaning of Independence Day is easy to lose sight of. It was in 1776 on July
4th that church bells rang out over Philadelphia, signaling that
the Declaration of Independence was approved and officially adopted by the
Second Continental Congress.
In June of 1776, Henry Lee of Virginia offered a resolution declaring that the colonies should be "free and independent states" and called for the establishment of foreign alliances and a plan of confederation. Congress then appointed a committee to draft a statement to the world presenting the colonies' case for independence. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft which was presented to the congress on June 28th. After various changes, a vote was taken late in the afternoon of July 4th. Of the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration, 2 voted against it (Pennsylvania and South Carolina), Delaware was undecided, and New York abstained.
the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August -- and even then,
a few signatures were still missing -- the 4th of July
has been accepted as the official anniversary of U.S. independence. The
first Independence Day celebration took place the on July 4th of 1777. By the early 1800s the traditions of parades,
pageants, patriotic speeches, and fireworks were
established as the way to celebrate America's birthday. It was not declared a legal holiday, however, until 1941.
Visiting the Park
Although the park is relatively small in total area (45 acres), it includes about 20 historic buildings that are open to the public. The best place to begin is at the visitor center, located at 3rd and Walnut streets. You'll be able to watch the 28-minute film "Independence," obtain park maps (in 12 languages), or have park rangers answer your questions. If you only have a short time to visit the park, the National Park Service recommends that you visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion first. Generally, five to eight hours are needed for a basic visit of the park; two days are required to leisurely visit all the park sites.
Tours of Independence Hall are given approximately every 15 minutes throughout the day. Tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House are available by signing up at the Visitor Center. Rangers offer programs at all other sites on a first- come, first-served basis.
For further information, contact the park at:
313 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 597-8974 - Visitor Information
(215) 597-1785 (TTY)
Three other national parks located within a mile of Independence Hall NHP include the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, and the Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church National Historic Site.
Other useful resources:
National Parks in Pennsylvania - explore the state's national parks, from the Allegheny Portage Railroad to Valley Forge.
Revolutionary War Parks - links to other national parks, state parks, and resources on the American Revolution.
Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention (1774-1789) - from the Library of Congress.