Ah! The Glorious Second!!!

08/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today is the 233rd anniversary of the secession of 13 British North American Colonies from the Empire, thus creating the United States of America. However, the celebration is on the fourth. Why is that? Well, you have to go back to 1776 to find out...

John Dickinson was a patriot. He in fact voted for a resolution demanding the overthrow of the Royal Governments of the 13 rebellious colonies of North America, but he thought that it wasn't the right time for a republic and opposed the resolution that had been introduced by Virginia a couple of months before, so unlike the heroic (but wrongheaded) stand he is seen taken in the musical 1776 (to be seen on Turner classic Movies 10 PM EDT Saturday night), he was convinced to just not show up that day, and he didn't.

A preamble to the first resolution, which was written by Massachusetts delegate John Adams, in fact, was an informal declaration, and that's why several state delegations voted against it. So, to some extent, independence had been legally achieved (depending on who you were talking to) the previous May, but these things have to be formalized. As the Declaration was hammered out by a select committee (Thomas Jefferson with three others looking over his shoulder), there was a great deal of back room negotiations, with Dickinson demanding that Articles of Confederation come first, and Adams demanding that Independence come first. On June 30th, the document was ready, and debate began. Then voting began the next day. The vote at close of business on July 1st, 1776: yea 9, nay 1, and not voting 3.

South Carolina's nay vote was reversed the next day; Caeser Rodney of Delaware, though gravely ill, arrived in the nick of time to sway his colony in the yea direction; Pennsylvania's Dickinson didn't show up, and patriot and financier Robert Morris decided to abstain. The vote was now 12 to 0 to 1.

Now about that 1:

New York's delegation was completely in favor of independence, however, the state legislature had refused to issue instructions, so they didn't vote. It was unanimous, sort of. Most of the East Coast of North America was now a federal republic. Adams prophesies that July the Second would become a national holiday celebrated with picnics and fireworks.

July 3rd was dedicated to ripping Jeffersons' draft declaration apart, and that went on until the middle of the next day, when it was voted on, and sent to the printers. Thus, the Fourth of July -- when the deed was made public -- not the Second -- when it was done -- is the date for the holiday.

So drink two toasts to Liberty, one today and one on Saturday! Huzzah!