Church bells rang out over Philadelphia on July 4, 1776…. signalling that the Declaration of Independence was approved and officially adopted by the Continental Congress.
A month earlier Congress had appointed a Committee of Five to draft a statement to the world presenting the colonies’ case for independence. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The committee assigned Jefferson the task of writing the original document. After minor alterations were subsequently made by Franklin and Adams, the document was submitted to Congress.
Two passages in Jefferson’s draft were rejected by the Congress — an intemperate reference to the English people and a scathing denunciation of the slave trade. Otherwise, the Declaration was adopted without significant change…..and through it all, Jefferson was its primary author.
The Declaration of Independence made Jefferson internationally famous. Years later, when John Adams complained that the Declaration’s ideas were “hackneyed,” Jefferson agreed. He wrote: “Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”
One of the great newspapers in Philadelphia at the time was The Pennsylvania Packet. Of undoubted loyalty to the Patriot cause, it was published by John Dunlap who served as an officer in the Revolution. The paper was published every Monday and was famous for an engraving of a ship in the center of its masthead.
- Read the text version of the Declaration of Independence
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