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Independence Day Is Not an Act of Congress

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If you’ve paid attention to the U.S. calendar of official holidays, then you’ve noticed some holidays are fixed, like Christmas, which is always Dec 25. You are also aware others are flexible as to which date they fall upon. Memorial Day falls on the last Monday in May, and Labor Day falls on the first Monday in September. And it’s no coincidence Washington’s birthday and Columbus Day fall on Mondays. This is not happenstance. Those three-day holidays were created by a sleight of hand by Congress.

In 1968, Congress relegislated history with the passage of the Uniform Holiday Act. This moved many holidays to the closest Monday. Their rationale was to give us more time to celebrate.

The initial legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Robert McClory of Illinois included the resetting of Independence Day to fall on the first Monday in July. He argued since nobody has ever determined the precise date when the Declaration of Independence was completed by our founders, this would be a logical move. He said historians also debated when our Founders announced it to the colonies. Since they could not agree to agree on July 2 or 4, it made little difference if Congress agreed to this change.

That brainstorm went over like giving a progressive a copy of the Constitution for his birthday.

As the bill segued from one committee to another, it went smoothly until the issue arose of moving the day we celebrate our independence from the Fourth of July to any other day of the year. Veterans groups, the Daughters of Liberty and others petitioned the committees to leave Independence Day alone.

Clergymen and women showed up at the doorsteps of congressional offices to protest changing the date we celebrate our independence. They said that since so many people came to church on that special day to thank the Almighty for the blessings of America, it would hurt attendance. Schoolchildren wrote letters pleading with Congress not to diminish the importance of the Fourth of July.

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