A Graphic History of Why Americans Celebrate 4th July

What’s so special about the 4th July? For Americans, it’s the day of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain – 238 years ago today. But do you know why it happened? To find out, scroll through our visual history.

Britain's Seven Year's War Debt

This was met with opposition in the 13 American colonies:

Boston Tea Party

In 1775 rebellion broke out:

richard-henry-lee On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. Some Congressmen were not empowered to advocate independence from the British, and a complex political war took up the rest of the month as impediments to the vote were removed.

On 2nd July 1776 in Philadelphia, Congress voted in favour of Lee’s proposal:

signing-of-declaration-independence john-adams-2nd-july-quote Having officially parted ways with King George III, congressional attention turned to formulating the Declaration of Independence, an official explanation of that decision. This was authored principally by Thomas Jefferson, and after the process of revision, which continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, the Declaration was officially adopted, 238 years ago today. American Declaration of Independence

13 Colony voting for the Declaration of Independence:

13-colony-voting-american-independence John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. Hence the colloquialism ‘John Hancock’ for ‘signature’. john-hancocks-signature-4-july

The war continued, and the British launched a successful counterattack, re-capturing New York City in 1776 and Philadelphia in 1777:


American War of Independence timeline:

But the British attack stalled, suffering a heavy defeat at Saratoga:

british-surrender-at-saratoga France Spain and the Dutch Republic had been secretly supplying the Americans, and intervened to prevent compromise peace being reached in 1778. countries-supportive-america-independence The British turned their attentions South and made some gains – recapturing Georgia and South Carolina.

The decisive defeat came with by the capture of 7,000 soldiers by a Franco-American force at Yorktown:


Hostilities were formally concluded with the Treaty of Paris in 1783:


Remarkably Jefferson and Adams, who would both serve as Presidents of the USA, both died on July 4 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration:


July 4th became unpaid national holiday in 1917 and has subsequently developed into a huge annual event marked by parades and firework displays:



James Carson graduated from the University of York with a degree in English and History and have a keen interested in both World Wars and popular science - particularly space.