September 09, 2009

SEPTEMBER 9 - Happy Birthday, United States of America!

Yes, I said Happy Birthday United States of America. And, yes, I know this is September 9th and not July 4th.

But the fact is, it was on September 9th  – 233 years ago today – that our country was officially named.

Before that, our would-be country was known as the “the United Colonies.” And, that’s the name that was still in use when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

It’s true that the Declaration refers to the “united States of America.”

But look closely at a copy of the Declaration. Zoom in to the last paragraph, five lines above John Hancock’s famously humongous signature.

You'll see that the “u” in “united” is lowercase.

That’s because, in the Declaration, the word “united” was being used as an adjective. It was making the point that the “States of America” (which were not quite states in the current sense yet) were united in pursuing independence from King George and Britain.

The Founding Fathers did apparently notice that the phrase “united States of America” had a certain ring to it.

Shortly after the Declaration was signed, they prepared a draft of the Articles of Confederation for the nascent nation. That draft said: "The name of this Confederacy shall be ‘the United States of America.’”

Then, as things turned out, the Articles of Confederation got sidetracked and weren't officially adopted until 1781.

However, in the fall of 1776, the Congress decided to pass a resolution making the name official.

Here's how it was recorded by John Adams for the Journal of Congress:

"Monday September 9, 1776. Resolved, that in all Continental Commissions, and other Instruments where heretofore the Words, 'United Colonies,' have been used, the Stile be altered for the future to the United States."

Break out the firecrackers!

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