Quick Facts About Declaration of Independence
On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a resolution 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 Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented to Congress a motion, “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.”
On June 11, 1776, Congress created a Committee of Five to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence.
The members of the Committee of Five included Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut.
The Committee of Five assigned the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence between June 11 and June 28, 1776.
On Friday, June 28, 1776, the Committee of Five presented to Congress the document entitled “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States Of America in General Congress assembled.”
On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress approved Richard Henry Lee proposed resolution of June 7, thereby declaring independence from Great Britain.
On July 4, 1776, after two days of debate and editing, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence submitted by the Committee of Five.
The Declaration of Independence is made up of three major parts: the preamble; the body, and the conclusion.
The preamble of the Declaration of Independence establishes a philosophical justification for a split with Britain — all men have rights, government is established to secure those rights, if and when such government becomes a hindrance to those rights, it should be abolished – or ties to it broken.
The main body of the Declaration lists numerous grievances and examples of crimes of the King against the people of the colonies, making him “;unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”;
The main body also challenges the legitimacy of legislation enacted by Parliament and chastises the people of England for remaining “;deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”;
In the conclusion, the climax of the document, Congress announces to the world that ";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.";
The first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were turned out from the shop of John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress.
The exact number of broadsides printed at John Dunlap’s shop on the evening of July 4 and the morning of July 5 is undetermined but estimated to be between one and two hundred copies.
On the morning of July 5, members of Congress sent copies to various assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety as well as to the commanders of Continental troops.
On July 5, a copy of the printed version of the approved Declaration was inserted into the “;rough journal”; of the Continental Congress for July 4.
The July 5 copies included the names of only John Hancock and Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress.
There are 24 copies known to exist of what is commonly referred to as “;the Dunlap broadside,”; 17 owned by American institutions, 2 by British institutions, and 5 by private owners.
On July 9, the Declaration was officially approved by the New York Convention, completing the approval of all 13 colonies
On July 19, Congress was able to order that the Declaration be ";fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile [sic] of 'The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America,' and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.";
Timothy Matlack was probably the engrosser of the Declaration.
Delegates began signing the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776 after it was engrossed on parchment.
John Hancock, the President of the Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Other than John Hancock and Charles Thompson, whose names appeared on the original printed versions of the Declaration, the names of the others signers were kept secret until 1777 for fear of British reprisals.
On January 18, 1777, Congress ordered the second official printing of the document, including the names of all of the signers.
The original parchment version of the Declaration of Independence is held by the National Archives and Records Administration, in Washington, D.C.