Dates to Remember
April 19, 1775
The Revolutionary War begins with shots fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
June 7, 1776
Richard Henry Lee introduces a motion in a meeting of the Continental Congress that the United States is and should be declared free from ties to Great Britain. Delegates disagree about the wisdom of this idea, which comes to be called the “Lee Resolution.” Eventually, the Congress appoints a Committee of Five to draft a Declaration of Independence for consideration.
June 11, 1776
John Adams convenes the Committee of Five to draft a Declaration of Independence. The five members of the committee are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. The committee chooses Jefferson to write the first draft.
Two days in mid-June, 1776
Jefferson writes the first draft of the Declaration. He said later that he never meant to say things that “had never been said before.” Instead, he tries to capture “the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”
July 2, 1776
The Continental Congress votes to declare independence from Great Britain, formally adopting the Lee Resolution. The next day John Adams writes in a letter to his wife that, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.”
July 3, 1776
The Continental Congress begins debating and editing the draft Declaration, eventually making 86 edits and cutting the length by about a fourth.
July 4, 1776
The Continental Congress approves the final draft of the Declaration, formalizing what had already been decided on July 2. Congress hires printer John Dunlap to print copies of the Declaration to be distributed throughout the colonies.
July 5, 1776
Dunlap delivers his 200 copies of the Declaration (which are now called “Dunlap Broadsides”). One copy is officially entered into the Congressional Journal and the other copies are distributed throughout the colonies.
July 6, 1776
The Pennsylvania Evening Post becomes the first newspaper to reprint the whole Declaration, but news of the July 2 decision to declare independence has already been widely reported and various celebrations and discussions are already taking place throughout the colonies.
July 8, 1776
The Declaration is read publicly to the people of Philadelphia. Around this time, Congress gets around to sending a copy of the Declaration to its emissary in Europe to be distributed to the various European governments. However, the original letter is lost and the Declaration isn’t formally delivered to Great Britain and the rest of Europe until November, when news of the Declaration had already reached Europe.
July 9, 1776
New York finally approves the Declaration. It is the last of the 13 colonies to do so.
July 19, 1776
The Continental Congress decides to have an “engrossed” copy of the Declaration made, meaning a clean, readable, handwritten copy on parchment. Timothy Matlack, who was the assistant to the Secretary of Congress, probably makes the copy. (This is the copy now housed at the National Archives.)
August 2, 1776
Those delegates who had voted in favor of independence and who are in attendance that day sign the engrossed copy of the Declaration. Fifty delegates sign on this day. Six more will sign later.
We think it is interesting to note that June, 11, 1776 Congress charged a committee of five to create the Declaration of Independence, not all delegates agreed it was a good idea, and yet a draft was created (the first draft was created by Thomas Jefferson in two days in mid-June) and on July 4th, 1776, after all revisions and edits have been made, the final draft of the Declaration of Independence is approved. New York is the last of the 13 colonies to approve the Declaration, and it does so on July 9, 1776. August 2, 1776, fifty delegates sign it, and six more sign later. It took a little over two months for the Continental Congress to discuss, create, approve and sign our Declaration of Independence.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Margaret Mead.
“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Only through perils and upheavals can nations be brought to further developments. May the present upheavals lead to a better world.” Albert Einstein.
Our Declaration of Independence begins:
“WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The Declaration then goes on to list all the reasons and grievances for declaring independence from Great Britain, and ends with:
“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.”
Happy Independence Day. Happy 4th of July.