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Friday, July 9, 2010

Should July 9th be Independence Day?

As we mentioned last week, the day we celebrate Independence Day in America, July 4th, isn't actually the day we voted to break away from Great Britain. While July 2 has a strong claim to be Independence Day, we'd also like to put forward today, July 9th, as a good candidate to celebrate America's birthday--at least in New York.

When the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to vote on ratifying Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, the delegation from New York balked. This wasn't so much because New Yorkers weren't interested in backing independence, but rather that the colony's delegation (which included such notable citizens as Lewis Morris and Francis Lewis) didn't think that New York's legislature had given them the authority to take such a bold step.

Some time after July 2, the New York delegation left Philadelphia to return home to debate the matter and on July 9 voted to back the independence resolution, making them the thirteenth and final colony to get on board.

Later that same day, the first copies of the Declaration of Independence arrived in New York and, that evening, it was read aloud for the first time to George Washington's troops. In a frenzy, soldiers and members of the Sons of Liberty stormed down Broadway, jumped the fence at Bowling Green park, and toppled the gilded equestrian statue of of George III. (This is a story that we tell in depth in Inside the Apple.)

So, if you are around Lower Manhattan today, here's a couple of places to visit to honor what could have been Independence Day:

  • Bowling Green park, site of the George III statue and still surrounded by its British Colonial fence (erected ca. 1771).
  • Federal Hall National Memorial, on the spot where the New York delegation voted for Independence (and, later, where George Washington was inaugurated and the Bill of Rights passed).
  • Trinity Church, Wall Street, where Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis is buried in the north yard.

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Read more about the colonial and Revolutionary New York in

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