On July 2, 1776—not July 4—the Second Continental Congress voted to declare our nation’s independence from Great Britain.
John Adams, who would become the second president of the United States, thought that July 2 would be the most celebrated day in American history. Instead, the nation’s birthday has instead been celebrated on July 4—the day that the edited version of the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted.
The congressional action did not lead the nation into a fight for independence. Instead, it simply ratified what had already happened. The War for Independence began 15 months before the formal declaration was issued. In fact, by the time Congress acted, a majority of the British governors had already been forced to flee the new nation.
However, political leaders recognized the importance of unity. They continued debating and addressing concerns until a unanimous vote could be obtained. That happened on July 2. Twelve colonies voted for independence, and New York abstained.