Happy birthday, America!
July 4m, or Independence Day, is the most important American holiday. It's the birthday of the United States of America. On this day, in 1776, America signed the Declaration of Independence and started the fight for freedom from British rule.
Before 1776., the King of England, George III, ruled the thirteen colonies in America. The colonists were tired of the taxes that George III imposed on them. "We have no representation in the British Parliament," they said, "so what right does he have to tax us?" "No taxation without representation" became their battle cry.
In 1767, the British government placed new taxes on tea and paper that the colonists imported from abroad. The colonists got angry and refused to pay. George III sent soldiers to keep order.
In 1773, a group of colonists dressed up as Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the East India Company into the waters of Boston harbour. King George didn't think it was funny. His reply to this "Boston tea party" was a set of laws to punish the colonists. Boston harbour was closed until the tea was paid for. More soldiers were sent there to keep order.
But the "Intolerable Acts", as the colonists called King George's laws, served only to unite the colonies against the British rule. The War of Independence began.
On July 4, 1776, the colonists declared their independence from Britain. Led by Thomas Jefferson, the representatives of all thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence. A large part of it was written by Jefferson himself. The document stated that the colonies were now "free and independent states" and officially named them the United States of America. It also said that all men had a natural right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed and, on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document. People celebrated the birth of a new nation.
But the War of Independence dragged on until 1783 when the colonists finally won. The head of the Revolutionary army was George Washington, who later became the first President of the United States of America. In 1783, Independence Day was made an official holiday.
Today, the country's birthday is widely celebrated with parades, public meetings, patriotic music and speech-making. There are picnics and barbecues, and in the evening there are big fireworks shows. Wherever Americans are around the globe, they will get together for a traditional 4th of July celebration!
(from Speak Out, abridged)

Last Updated (Friday, 19 February 2010 16:49)