A DAY THAT TOOK A SUMMER

While we celebrate today as the single most important day in our nation’s History, consider that it wasn’t just a day but took the entire summer to produce. 
  • On June 7th, 1776 Richard Henry Lee read a resolution that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States…”
  • On June 11th, 5 men were appointed to the task: John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. John Adams was to be the primary architect of the draft, but immediately put his ego in check saying that a Virginian, coming from the largest of the colonies by population, should be the primary author. Plus, Jefferson, he said, was the better writer. Most of the document are Jefferson’s words. Thus, the Committee of Five began to draft.
  • On July 2, 12 of the 13th states (all but New York) approved the draft. The Philadelphia Evening Post declared that congress declared the colonies free that same evening. Adams wrote home to his wife Abigail, that forever in history this date, July 2, 1776, shall be marked by parades, music, festivities and fireworks:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

  • John Adams
  • On July 4th, after spending 2-1/2 days altering and deleting minor portions of the document, including a condemnation of the slave trade, the document was adopted and a copy sent to local printer John Dunlap who was tasked to make copies to distribute. The president of the congress, John Hancock is the only signer of the document this day.
  • On July 5th, the document began to be read and spread across the colonies, which will take time with the technology and transportation of the day.
  • On July 9th it is read before troops by George Washington in New York City, who then promptly tear down a statue of King George III and beheading it, then melting it down for bullets. Separately, but on this same day, the New York delegates officially adopt the action.
  • On July 19th, the document on display at the Archives was ordered to be formally penned.
  • On August 2nd, the document was signed by most of the members, others signed throughout the fall and the last signature being inked in 1781.

Postscript

On July 4, 1826, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die within hours of each other, 50 years after the final adoption of the Declaration.  What began as a professional friendship, turned to political rivalry as cabinet members in George Washington’s presidency. Rivalry caused a dissolution of their friendship with the bitter Election of 1800. But through another Founding Father, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the two rekindled their friendship via the mail.

  • J.
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