On 7 June 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed an act declaring the Thirteen Colonies to be independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain. On 2 July 1776, Lee's Resolution was passed by Congress. Of this momentous occasion, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival...It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations..."
Of course, we do not even recognize this day as anything more than two days prior to the real celebration of the 4th of July because it was on the 4th that Congress passed the Declaration of Independence which was built, in large part, upon Lee's Resolution.
You can see the entire Resolution by clicking on the image to the right. The dash marks at the bottom right side indicate the 12 colonies that voted for independence. New York abstained and did not accept the Declaration until the following month.