THE BLOG
07/04/2006 04:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why July 4th and Not July 2nd? The Secret Public Relations Story

Why July 4th? Why is this the date of our country's Independence Day?

Our Founding Fathers (I guess the Founding Mothers were home baking what would become the traditional apple pies) had been wrestling with the whole notion of independence for some time. The colonists had been fighting with Britain since April 1775 and the Continental Congress finally made its motion for independence on June 8, 1776. Congress then actually voted on the motion -- unanimously and secretly -- on July 2nd.

According to the online dictionary -- www.thefreedictionary.com -- John Adams wrote this to his wife Abigail on July 3:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore."

So what gives?

We can guess at some of the reasons for July 4th rather than July 2nd -- and we suspect that a strategic public relations plan for the Declaration of Independence was created and purposely suppressed (I mean, come on -- releasing a Declaration of Independence WITHOUT a developed pr plan?).

Based on hearsay, since no official documents pertaining to the public relations plan exist, here's our guess at the timeline:

Sunday, June 9, 1776: Sensing that a serious move for independence is right around the corner after the official motion for independence was made in Congress the day before, a "pr subcommittee" of the "radical revolutionaries" in the Continental Congress, headed by gadfly and publisher Ben Franklin, meets for brunch on June 9th at a really nice restaurant in Philadelphia. Franklin, no dummy, saves the restaurant receipt to be used in creating a "bille of consultation" to be presented for payment to the Congress, thus creating the first American pr consultancy. It's agreed that Franklin will work with Jefferson on the wording and editing of a "declaration of independence." To aid in the drafting of the declaration, Franklin suggests "probing the minds of some of our constituents" by creating a "series of questions to be answered by the colonists in a randomme manner." This, of course, is America's first political poll.

Monday, June 10th through June 29th: Franklin creates the questions for the poll and works with Jefferson on the Declaration itself. A poll question example:

1) Would you support an official declaration of independence if it was announced today?

a) Strongly support. b) Independence will be bad for businesse c) I'm a Tory and I hate all of you revolutionaries because independence is only important to the "radical fringe." e) Won't we all be hanged for treason? f) Support the idea with caution. g) "Independence" is too strong a word. h) Don't care as long as whoever is in charge promises not to impose and raise taxes.

Franklin enlists the help of about 30 volunteers, who go door-to-door in Philadelphia with the poll. Many Philadelphians, afraid that they will suffer retribution, refuse to take the poll and slam their doors on the poll takers.

Franklin tabulates the poll results. They show that not all constituents are keen on independence, but that they generally favor the idea. Franklin "tones down" some of the more inflammatory rhetoric in the declaration's first draft. He hires a man, Joshua Muchness, to go to the Continental Congress and get a "sense" of the members about independence. He gives him money for a nice suit and instructs him to "freely wine and dine members who are sitting on the fence -- but keep all the receipts." Thus, the first lobbyist is put to work.

Sunday, June 30th: The pr subcommittee meets again for brunch, at another nice restaurant. They go over the poll results and get a report from Joshua Muchness. He has had some success in getting the delegates from New York and Delaware to lean more toward independence, revealing to them only the "positive" poll results; he reports that this has cost $200. and promises of help in their re-election campaigns. The committee members also see the revised draft of the declaration. Franklin leads the group in a "framing" session, whereby they try to come to agreement upon their main "message" and sub-messages. Franklin and Jefferson agree to be the main media "spokesmen" when the time comes.

Monday, July 1st: A draft of the revised declaration is sent to the full Continental Congress, under Joshua Muchness' vigilant eye.

Tuesday, July 2nd: The Continental Congress approves the Declaration of Independence in secret. Franklin declares that it's best to release "big news" like the Declaration of Independence on a Thursday, because, as everyone knows, the story will appear in Friday's papers. Friday is always the most read paper of the week, since many people buy the papers to see what's doing for the weekend. In addition, it gives Franklin and Jefferson a couple of days to work on their "messaging." Franklin also works on drafting "a release of information to the presse" for distribution on July 4th which will explain the document from "the perspective of our committee."

Thursday, July 4th: The official Declaration of Independence is released as well as the "presse information." The work of Franklin's pr committee has been thorough, and the voices of opposition are taken by surprise. They have no documents or statements prepared to counter Franklin's, so that Friday's papers only contain quotes from Franklin and Jefferson.

Happy 4th of July.