January 14, 2013 - Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

I bet you're thinking that July 4 is America's birthday, not January 14!

And yes, July 4, 1776, is the traditional date given for America's birth. That is, after all, when the 13 American colonies formally declared their independence from Britain. (Mind you, the Revolutionary War had begun more than a year earlier, with the battles of Lexington and Concord, and there had been more than 90 state and local “declarations of independence” from Britain in the first half of 1776. Congress had also already passed a resolution urging states to create their own, non-British, independent governments. The formal declaration that we call THE Declaration of Independence was written in June of 1776, but July 4 is the date when the American Congress voted to adopt the Declaration. It wasn't actually signed until August 2, and of course it took time to send copies to Europe, including to Parliament and King George III!)

But there is a good reason to count today as the true birthday of the country, because this is the anniversary of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, in 1784. When Congress ratified the treaty, the Revolutionary War was finally officially over, and the U.S. was finally officially a self-governing nation.

I guess we can all agree that it was a long and difficult birth!

Even this ratification was a bit difficult...

The Continental Congress was in session. Every delegate was in favor of ratifying the peace treaty. People were delighted to declare the war over and to go on with the business of governing the new nation.

So why was the ratification difficult?
North America was suffering from the coldest winter then on record, with heavy snowfall in some areas, so delegates from only seven states had managed to make it to the Continental Congress sessions. The rule was that delegates from at least nine states had to agree to signing a treaty. People discussed and discussed again what to do—whether or not the British would feel that the Americans were “cheating” if delegates from nine states hadn't ratified, whether or not the rule even applied in this particular case, and what options there were to fix the problem. Finally Congress settled on a compromise, a sort of Plan A / Plan B, and they scheduled the vote even though there were not enough delegates.

At the last second, delegates from Connecticut and South Carolina arrived, and delegates from nine states took the completely above-board and legal vote to ratify the treaty. Whew—crisis averted!

Also on this date:

Dress Up Your Pet Day 

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