Why July 4 is America’s Holy Day

By Scott Powell Published on July 2, 2023

Too many Americans underappreciate the meaning of holidays such as July 4th, also known as Independence Day. While some connect fireworks with the firing of cannons in the Revolutionary War, most forget that when the 56 members of the Continental Congress agreed to put the pen to parchment and affirm the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, all knew that being a signatory put a death threat on their heads as traitors to Britain.

A Serious and Somber Occasion

The War of Independence was in its second year by July 1776, and George Washington’s rag-tag colonial army was about half the size of the highly trained professional British army and the German Hessian mercenary troops fighting for the English. Additionally, Washington’s army was undertrained, underequipped, and underfunded. The naval mismatch was even greater at the outset of the war. In the first year of the war, the Continental Navy had less than 10 converted merchant ships while the British amassed 250 dedicated warships, concentrated along the coastline and in ports between the Delaware Bay and Boston. Indeed, things appeared grim for the patriot cause.

The last sentence of the Declaration of Independence before the space allotted for signatures reads, “…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Indeed, July 4 for those Founders was a serious and somber occasion.

Two Political and Moral Principles

As we think about July 4th, we should remember that America was first in human history to establish a free and independent constitutional republic based on two political and moral principles. First, the government was required to protect its subjects’ unalienable God-given freedom and rights, which would be later formalized in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Second, it was the first country to establish that the legitimacy for government resides exclusively in the people, who would elect their leaders.

America Was Built on Courage, Determination and Godly Principles

We must never forget the courage, determination and godly principles that were necessary to establish the United States. General George Washington was in New York, preparing its defense, when on July 6, 1776 a courier from Philadelphia arrived to deliver a copy of the Declaration of Independence that had been agreed upon by delegates of the Continental Congress just two days before. There were just two signatures on that document: John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, and Secretary Charles Thomson. Because the odds of prevailing against the British were so low and the penalty for treason was death, it had been decided not to reveal the identities of the other 54 who had voted for the Declaration.

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Washington would encounter defeat and retreat after losing all three major battle campaigns in New York, at the cost of 4,100 men killed or taken prisoner.

Less than six months later, however, after Washington had two successive victories, defeating a Hessian garrison in Trenton, New Jersey, the day after Christmas 1776, and then routing the British in nearby Princeton eight days later, the Continental Congress perceived these back-to-back wins as harbingers of ultimate victory and released the 56-signature Declaration to be distributed throughout the colonies.

As it turned out, Washington would lose more battles than he won, but he persisted five more years, with unwavering faith in God and the patriot cause. A myriad of developments that only Providence could have arranged made Washington’s 1781 victory at Yorktown possible — bringing final and total surrender by the British. In retrospect, what was more remarkable than the reversal of odds resulting in the American military victory, was the spiritual power of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that followed, which established that the rights of the people come from God and not the state and that the sovereign powers of the state would be shaped and limited by those unalienable rights of the citizens.

God Was Driven Out of American Culture

When God was progressively driven out of American culture starting 60-odd years ago, that void became filled with false idols and divisive spiritual influences such as cultural Marxism and critical race theory. Little wonder that average Americans today feel demoralized and confused about the self-destructive direction of the country. A corrupt ruling elite in America seems to have neither respect for the people’s welfare nor for the Constitution that served previous generations of Americans so well.

It’s Time to Come Full Circle

Everything can change if Americans align their interests with God who assures that in time truth will triumph over lies and good over evil. Just as success followed the resolve expressed on July 4, 1776, we too can tap into the same unstoppable spiritual power that enabled the founders to overcome impossible odds.

Coming full circle from the opening observation that many have an insufficient appreciation for the meaning behind holidays, when the term holiday originally came into usage it was synonymous with “holy day.” July 4th is truly the American holy day for the reasons described.

It is axiomatic that most everyone resists others seeking to deny or take valuable possessions away from them. Let’s make this July 4th a day of celebration of our founding ideals, but also a time of renewed commitment to engage and wake up everyone we know that it’s time to resist creeping tyranny and reclaim precious possessions — our freedoms and rights. It’s time to become active and accelerate the patriot cause, knowing that — just as the sun comes up in the east — persistence, courage and the truth of our cause are the shield and sword that assure victory.


Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Institute on Faith and Culture and the Discovery Institute. His recent book, Rediscovering America, was #1 new release in history for eight straight weeks at Amazon. Reach him at [email protected].

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