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Written by Rick Amburgey: Just about everybody knows we celebrate July 4th (or Independence Day) to celebrate being free of English rule. But what exactly happened on July 4?

When the colonists settled along the east coast of the United States and formed the original 13 colonies, their home country of England demanded that they pay high taxes. Eventually, the colonists stopped paying taxes. Angry at this action, the King of England sent the English Army to the colonies in an attempt to force the colonists to pay taxes. That didn't work out too well. The colonists formed their own army and began to fight the English soldiers. This began the conflict known as the American Revolution, or the Revolutionary War. Some people think that July 4 celebrates the ending of the war that officially made the colonists free from England. This is not accurate. July 4 celebrates the events of July 4, 1776. The American Revolution didn't actually end until 1783.

More than a year into the conflict, the colonists decided to declare their own Independence from England. This was done with the document called "The Declaration of Independence." July 4, 1776 is the day the document was approved by the Continental Congress and the day is considered to the official birthday of the United States. However, the country could have reverted back to English rule if the colonists had lost the American Revolution.

The famous copy of the Declaration that is the document's final form with the signatures of all the members of the Continental Congress was signed on August 2,1776 - not July 4.

The first July 4 celebration was held on July 8, 1776. There were immediate celebrations of the event, but these were random and organized within individual communities. Independence Day did not become a federal holiday until 1938. It is reported that gunshots and even a gun salute were held on July 4 as early as 1777. It is also reported that General George Washington celebrated in 1778 with alcohol - he gave his men (the war was still going on) a double ration of rum on that day. In 1781, the Massachusetts legislature was the first of the states to call it a state holiday.

Ironically, two of the men who signed the document died on the nation's 50th birthday - July 4, 1826. Both men also served as President of the United States. President James Madison also died on July 4 - July 4, 1831.

Today, the celebration of Independence Day has become decidedly more elaborate. It's a day off work and a day usually spent with family and friends engaging in a variety of activities including setting off or watching fireworks.

However you decide to spend this holiday, I ask that you do so safely. The consumption of alcoholic beverages goes hand in hand with holiday celebrations. If alcohol becomes part of your celebration, make sure you have a designated driver. There will be a lot of police out today and there will also be heavy traffic today.

Also keep in a mind that it is illegal to set off certain types of fireworks in Ohio. Before you partake in your own fireworks demonstration, check laws to see if the fireworks you plan to use is permitted. Among those banned: firecrackers

Fireworks #1

1.4 grams of over. Everyone enjoys a good fireworks display. The safest way to do this is to go to an organized fireworks demonstration. These are done by professionals and are usually much more elaborate and beautiful than the average person can do on their own anyway.

I also want to ask you to to think of the reason we celebrate July 4. Please think of your freedom and please think of the brave men and women who are fighting to protect that freedom. Regardless of whether you approve of our current president, we still live in the greatest country in the world. Speaking of our President Obama, today also marks the 11th birthday of his oldest daughter, Malia.

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