Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

July is an exciting time in the United States. Summer is hitting its stride, kids are enjoying summer break from school, and among the highlights of every summer are the festivities that surround the annual Fourth of July holiday. American independence is celebrated with family, food, and fireworks in my household. I think it's important to pause and take some time to remember and reflect on what made these celebrations possible.

The British empire fought and won an expensive French and Indian War in Canada and found itself saddled with a large debt from the campaign. To help pay that debt, Britain began taxing the colonies. Colonists saw taxes on items like sugar, stamps, and tea as a problem to be addressed. Britain claimed that the war was fought to protect the colonies from the French in Canada, but colonists felt it was more of a money grab. The colonists believed that no representatives from Parliament could understand the needs of the colonies, since they weren't elected by their constituents. Thus, the rallying cry became, "No taxation without representation!" Tea was tossed into Boston Harbor, and war was once again close at hand.

As the colonies fought the crown for freedom, as many as one fifth of the colonists disagreed with separating from Britain's protection. Some even joined the British and eventually fled to Canada and other British colonies upon the British defeat. This defeat came, in part, because the French sided with the colonies and supplied them with arms and funding for the duration of the war. They were eventually joined by Spanish and Dutch forces. This created many fronts for the British to defend against, and the fighting in the North American colonies became a secondary concern.

All told, the American victory ended up being a victory for Great Britain in the long run as well. They gained a trade partner in the newly minted United States without having to pay for administration and defense costs for their one-time colony.

The second Continental Congress would vote and pass its resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. Then, two days later, on July 4, the Congress would declare the nation's independence from Great Britain. The Fourth of July – Independence Day – would go on to become an official holiday (though not a paid federal holiday until 1938).

An interesting fact about the Fourth of July – three former U.S. Presidents have died on this day: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (also the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to go on to become President), and James Monroe. A fourth U.S. President, Calvin Coolidge, was born on the Fourth of July.

Cheers to freedom.