Declaration of Independence
Date: July 4, 1776
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
On May 15, 1776, the Virginia House of Burgesses resolved 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." On June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress received a resolution for declaring independence from Richard Henry Lee, leader of the Virginia delegation. Voting on the Lee Resolution was postponed so that the delegates from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina would have time to deliberate on the matter. On June 11, the Commitee of Five: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman were appointed to draft a declaration. The committee then asked Jefferson to become principal author.
From June 12 until June 27, Thomas Jefferson worked on a draft for the committee. Following completion, Jefferson then composed a fair copy of his completed draft and presented it to the committee. John Adams, then Benjamin Franklin, then the full committee made revisions for a total of forty-three alterations, including the addition of three complete paragraphs. On June 28, a copy of the committee's draft was read in Congress. On July 1, Congress took up debate on the Lee Resolution. In a vote taken that day, South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it, Delaware's delegates were evenly divided, while New York abstained. Edward Rutledge, a delegate from South Carolina, "then requested the determination might be put off to the next day." When another vote was taken on July 2, South Carolina, Delaware and Pennsylvania all voted in favor of the resolution, thus Congress passed the Lee Resolution, declaring independence as the British landed at New York City. New York several days later changed its vote to approval, making the vote unanimous.
Congress then made thirty-nine revisions to the committee's draft of the Declaration over the next three days. One of the most notable revisions was the deletion of language that denounced King George III for promoting the slave trade among the colonies. On the morning of July 4 in what is now known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. At least twenty-four draft copies were ordered to be made that day, signed by President of the Congress, John Hancock and the Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thompson.
On July 5, John Hancock, sent the first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence to the New Jersey and Delaware legislatures. On July 6, the Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to run the Declaration of Independence in its pages. On July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration took place in Philadelphia. On July 9, the Declaration of Independence is read to the American army in New York by order of General George Washington. On July 19, Congress ordered that the Declaration be officially inscribed and signed by its members. On August 2, Congressional delegates began to sign the officially inscribed copy of the Declaration, including some of those members who had not voted for its adoption. On January 18, 1777, Congress, now meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, ordered that signed copeis of the Declaration of Independence be printed and sent to the states.
Topic Last Updated: 3/16/2001
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