The Fourth of July was the day (it was actually a few days earlier) the people of the thirteen colonies through their representatives in the Congress, declared to the world that they were now independent and free States. Free from the King and Parliament and a centralized government. However, it would take a long and bloody war to actually permit these newly independent Sates to remain free.
The Declaration of Independence was signed by men who knew they were risking their “Lives, fortunes and sacred honor”. According to the King, they were all traitors who warranted death.
When the war finally came to a successful end the King and Parliament had no choice but to declare that the thirteen States were now free. The first Article of the Treaty of Paris that ended the war stated:
His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety, and Territorial Rights of the same and every Part thereof.
The Declaration Of Independence summed up as follows:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
So for this celebration, the Colonies won their Independence from British rule... the Union of the States had not yet taken place. But that is another story as to how, and why the States joined the union without giving up their sovereignty. Happy Fourth Of July everyone.