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Jay | Susan | Alex | Beth | Samantha
August 5, 2012 5:29 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Another month, a bit more history.

The Declaration of Independence (DoI) was initially drafted by Thomas Jefferson over the two weeks between 11 and 28 June, 1776.  The Declaration was an answer to pressures that had been building for some time, including the events of April 19th, 1775 (Paul Revere’s ride), a proclamation by the King of England that the colonies were engaged in “open and avowed rebellion.”  Later in 1775 England enacted the American Prohibitory Act, which forfeited all American shipping and cargoes to the crown.  Thomas Paine published “Common Sense” in January 1776 and by mid May of 1776 eight of the colonies were ready to support independence.

Richard H. Lee of Virginia was instructed, by the Virginia Convention that “the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states.”  He therefore presented the Lee Resolution on June 7th, 1776, which began: “Resolved: 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.”

The Continental congress debated, and then on June 11th the congress postponed consideration of the Lee Resolution by a vote of seven to five, with New York abstaining, and  then recessed for 3 weeks. The Continental Congress, however, appointed a Committee of Five  to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence.  The committee of five included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

Jefferson later (in 1823) wrote that the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. . . I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”

Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776.  On July 2nd the Lee Resolution was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, with New York abstaining.  Congress then began to consider the Declaration.  Congress made a few changes, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s draft with Adams’ and Franklin’s comments. The debate and revisions continued through all of July 3rd and late into the morning of July 4th. Church bells rang over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been unanimously adopted by the 2nd Continental Congress.

The Committee of Five’s work wasn’t over, however. Congress had the committee supervise the printing of the Declaration.  John Dunlap’s printing shop, the official printer for Congress produced the first copies of the Declaration of Independence.  Congress sent copies of the Declaration to various assemblies, and to the commanders of Continental troops on the morning of July 5th. The Congress also placed a copy of the printed version of the Declaration into the “rough journal” of the Continental Congress for July 4. The text was followed by the words “Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest. Charles Thomson, Secretary.” It is not known how many copies John Dunlap printed the night of July 4th. There are 26 copies known to exist of that printing, commonly called “the Dunlap broadside.”

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