The United States of America
Resolutions for Independence
A Brief History
"The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was 'to form a more perfect Union.' " -- Abraham Lincoln First Inaugural
Certain resolutions respecting independency being moved and seconded, 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.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that the first Resolution be postponed to this day three weeks and that in the meantime a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration to the effect of the said first resolution + least any time skid be lost in case the Congress agree to this resolution - Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses National Archives
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 [i]
The Grand Question of Independence was brought upon the Tapis the Eighth Instant, and after having been cooly discussed, the further Consideration thereof was on the 10th postponed for three Weeks, and in the mean Time, least any Time should be lost in Case the Congress should agree to the proposed Resolution of Independence, a Committee was appointed to prepare a Declaration to the Effect of said Resolution, another a Form of Confederation, and a Third a Plan for foreign Alliances.A Committee of Five was chosen with Thomas Jefferson of Virginia being picked unanimously as its first member. Congress also chose John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. The committee assigned Jefferson the task of producing a draft Declaration, as proposed in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, for its consideration.
Mr. Jefferson had been now about a Year a Member of Congress, but had attended his Duty in the House but a very small part of the time and when there had never spoken in public: and during the whole Time I satt with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three Sentences together. The most of a Speech he ever made in my hearing was a gross insult on Religion, in one or two Sentences, for which I gave him immediately the Reprehension, which he richly merited. It will naturally be enquired, how it happened that he was appointed on a Committee of such importance. There were more reasons than one. Mr. Jefferson had the Reputation of a masterly Pen. He had been chosen a Delegate in Virginia, in consequence of a very handsome public Paper which he had written for the House of Burgesses, which had given him the Character of a fine Writer. Another reason was that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his Colleagues from Virginia and Mr. Jefferson was sett up to rival and supplant him. This could be done only by the Pen, for Mr. Jefferson could stand no competition with him or any one else in Elocution and public debate. [iii]
Jefferson's original rough draft was first submitted to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for their thoughts and changes. Jefferson wrote "… because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit before presenting it to the Committee". [iv]
|America's Four Republics: The More or Less United States|
"... genesis roughly speaking, is the first three sections of George Mason's immortal composition (Virginia Declaration of Rights), Thomas Jefferson's Preamble to the Virginia Constitution, and Richard Henry Lee's resolution..."[v]
Congress was called to order on July 1st at 9 am and they were made aware of the British Fleet's arrival in New York's Harbor. Serious debate consumed most of that hot and humid Monday. The following July 1st account is published in the Letters of the Delegates:
On Monday the 1st of July the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole & resumed the consideration of the original motion made by the delegates of Virginia, which being again debated through the day, was carried in the affirmative by the votes of N. Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusets, Rhode island, N. Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina, & Georgia.
South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware having but two members present, they were divided. The delegates for New York declared they were for it themselves, & were assured their constituents were for it, but that their instructions having been drawn near a twelvemonth before, when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing which should impede that object. They therefore thought themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to withdraw from the question, which was given them.
The Committee rose & reported their resolution to the house. Mr. Rutlege of South Carolina then requested the determination might be put off to the next day, as he believed his collegues, tho' they disapproved of the resolution, would then join in it for the sake of unanimity. The ultimate question whether the house would agree to the resolution of the committee was accordingly postponed to the next day.On the morning of July 2, 1776 the New York Delegates wrote the newly elected Provincial Congress in NYC for instructions as the vote for independence was eminent.
Philadelphia 2d July 1776 - to the New York Provincial Congress
The important Question of Indepency was agitated yesterday in a Committee of the whole Congress, and this Day will be finally determined in the House. We know the Line of our Conduct on this Occasion; we have your Instructions, and will faithfully pursue them. New Doubts and Difficulties however will arise should Independency be declared; and that it will not, we have not the least Reason to expect nor do we believe that (if any) more than one Colony (and the Delegates of that divided) will vote against the Question; every Colony (ours only excepted) having withdrawn their former Instructions, and either positively instructed their Delegates to vote for Independency; or concur in such Vote if they shall judge it expedient. What Part are we to act after this Event takes Place; every Act we join in may then be considered as in some Measure acceding to the Vote of Independency, and binding our Colony on that Score. Indeed many matters in this new Situation may turn up in which the Propriety of our voting may be very doubtful; tho we conceive (considering the critical Situation of Public Affairs and as they respect our Colony in particular invaded or soon likely to be by Powerful Armies in different Quarters) it is our Duty nay it is absolutely necessary that we shoud not only concur with but exert ourselves in forwarding our Military Operations. The immediate safety of the Colony calls for and will warrant us in this. Our Situation is singular and delicate No other Colony being similarly circumstanced with whom we can consult.
We wish therefore for your earliest Advice and Instructions whether we are to consider our Colony bound by the Vote of the Majority in Favour of Indepency and vote at large on such Questions as may arise in Consequence thereof or only concur in such Measures as may be absolutely necessary for the Common safety and defence of America exclusive of the Idea of Indepency. We fear it will be difficult to draw the Line; but once possessd of your Instructions we will use our best Endeavours to follow them.
We are with the greatest Respect your Most Obedt Servts.
Fras. Lewis.The previous day, John Jay had written to Robert Livingston that the New York provincial Congress had adjourned:
I returned to this City from Elizt. Town, & to my great mortification am informed that our Convention influenced by one of Gouverneur Morris' vagrant Plans have adjourned to the White Plains to meet there tomorrow.
I have but a moments time to answer your letter. I am mortified at the removal of our convention. I think as you do on the subject. If my fears on account of your health would permit I shd. request you never to leave that volatile politician a moment. I have wished to be with you when I knew your situation. The Congress have done me the honour to refuse to let me go. I shall however apply again to day. I thank God I have been the happy means of falling on a expedient which will call out the whole militia of this country in a few days-tho' the Congress had lost hopes of it from the unhappy dispute & other causes with which I will acquaint you in a few days. We have desired a Genl to take the Command. I wish Mifflin may be sent for very obvious reasons. If you see [him] tell [him] so from me. I have much to say to you but [not a] moment to say it in. God be with you.
Despite a second British Fleet arriving in Charleston, South Carolina's harbor on June 1st, 1776, Delegate Edward Rutledge urged his fellow delegates to vote for the resolution. Arthur Middleton, son of First Continental Congress President Henry Middleton, shucked his father's loyalist wishes and joined his fellow Delegates in changing the colony's position from a July 1st no to an unanimous yes for independence.
Finally Caesar Rodney, who was summoned by fellow delegate Thomas McKean, [vii] arrived suffering from a serious facial cancer and afflicted with asthma after riding 80 miles through the rain and a lightening storm. He broke Delaware's 1 to 1 deadlock by casting the third vote for independence.
All 12 colonies, except for New York whose delegates were not empowered to vote, adopted the July 2nd, 1776 Resolution for Independency.
|Resolution for Independency which was passed on July 2, 1776.|
“The Subject had been in Contemplation for more than a Year and frequent discussions had been had concerning it. At one time and another, all the Arguments for it and against it had been exhausted and were become familiar. I expected no more would be said in public but that the question would be put and decided. Mr. Dickinson however was determined to bear his Testimony against it with more formality. He had prepared himself apparently with great Labour and ardent Zeal, and in a Speech of great Length, and all his Eloquence, he combined together all that had before been written in Pamphlets and News papers and all that had from time to time been said in Congress by himself and others. He conducted the debate, not only with great Ingenuity and Eloquence, but with equal Politeness and Candour: and was answered in the same Spirit.No Member rose to answer him: and after waiting some in hopes that some one less obnoxious than myself, who was still had been all along for a Year before, and still was represented and believed to be the Author of all the Mischief, I determined to speak.
It has been said by some of our Historians, that I began by an Invocation to the God of Eloquence. This is a Misrepresentation. Nothing so puerile as this fell from me. I began by saying that this was the first time of my Life that I had ever wished for the Talents and Eloquence of the ancient Orators of Greece and Rome, for I was very sure that none of them ever had before him a question of more Importance to his Country and to the World. They would probably upon less Occasions than this have begun by solemn Invocations to their Divinities for Assistance but the Question before me appeared so simple, that I had confidence enough in the plain Understanding and common Sense that had been given me, to believe that I could answer to the Satisfaction of the House all the Arguments which had been produced, notwithstanding the Abilities which had been displayed and the Eloquence with which they had been enforced. Mr. Dickinson, some years afterwards published his Speech. I had made no Preparation beforehand and never committed any minutes of mine to writing.
Before the final Question was put, the new Delegates from New Jersey came in, and Mr. Stockton, one of them Dr. Witherspoon and Mr. Hopkinson, a very respectable Characters, expressed a great desire to hear the Arguments. All was Silence: No one would speak: all Eyes were turned upon me. Mr. Edward Rutledge came to me and said laughing, Nobody will speak but you, upon this Subject. You have all the Topicks so ready, that you must satisfy the Gentlemen from New Jersey. I answered him laughing, that it had so much the Air of exhibiting like an Actor or Gladiator for the Entertainment of the Audience, that I was ashamed to repeat what I had said twenty times before, and I thought nothing new could be advanced by me. The New Jersey Gentlemen however still insisting on hearing at least a Recapitulation of the Arguments and no other Gentleman being willing to speak, I summed up the Reasons, Objections and Answers, in as concise a manner as I could, till at length the Jersey Gentlemen said they were fully satisfied and ready for the Question, which was then put and determined in the Affirmative.” [viii]
JOURNALS OF CONGRESS. CONTAINING THE PROCEEDINGS FROM JANUARY 1, 1776, TO JANUARY 1, 1777, York-town, Pa.: Printed by John Dunlap, 1778, 520, xxvii pp, - This volume of the Journals of Congress, opened to the July 2nd, 1776 proceedings, is one of the rarest of the series issued from 1774 to 1788, and has a peculiar and romantic publication history. Textually the Journals cover all the 1776 events, culminating with the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, an early printing of which appears in the Journals with the names of the signers, as well as the Resolution for Independency and all of the other actions of Congress for the year.
From 1774 to 1777 the printer of the Journals of Congress was Robert Aitken of Philadelphia. In 1777 he published the first issue of the Journals for 1776, under his own imprint. This was completed in the spring or summer. In the fall of 1777 the British campaign under Howe forced the Congress to evacuate Philadelphia, moving first to Lancaster and then to York, Pennsylvania. The fleeing Congress took with it what it could, but, not surprisingly, was unable to remove many copies of its printed Journals, which would have been bulky and difficult to transport. Presumably, any left behind in Philadelphia were destroyed by the British, accounting for the particular scarcity of those volumes today.
Among the material evacuated from Philadelphia were Aiken's printed sheets of pages 1-424 of the 1776 Journals. Having lost many complete copies in Philadelphia, and not having the terminal sheets to make up more copies, Congress resolved to reprint the remainder of the volume. John Dunlap the printer of the July 4th Declaration of Independence Broadside, unlike Aiken, had evacuated his equipment. Consequently, the Continental Congress appointed Dunlap their new printer on May 2, 1778. Dunlap then reprinted the rest of the 1776 volume (coming out to a slightly different pagination from Aitken's version). Dunlap added, under his imprint at York, a new title page along with a notice on the verso of his appointment as printer to Congress. This presumably came out between his appointment on May 2 and the return of Congress to Philadelphia in July 1778.
Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony "that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do."You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell'd Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days. On July 2, 1776 the Association known as United Colonies of America officially became the United States of America .[ix]
But the Day is past. 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.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. -- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. [x]
The adoption of this resolution on the 2nd of July, 1776, was the termination of all lawful authority of the King over the thirteen United Colonies — made by this act of the Congress thirteen United States of America. The Americans now owed no more allegiance to England than they owed to Germany, or France, or Spain ; they were no longer rebels or insurgents ; they claimed their recognition as one among the family of nations of the earth, and they maintained and sustained the claim. It was in the end acknowledged by the King of England himself. After the 2nd of July, 1776, the English armies, with their Hessian allies, were the invaders of America, sent to reduce the independent States to unconditional submission to the Crown of England. And yet this day has no place in Lord Mahon's "history," the day on which was consummated the most important measure that had ever been debated in America.
After the July 2nd, 1776, Resolution for Independency was passed, the Second Continental Congress turned to the debate over the language in the Committee of Five's formal Declaration of Independence. Time was short and Congress adjourned until Wednesday the 3rd. The debates of July 3rd and 4th altered the manuscript and with these changes the Declaration of Independence was considered by the committee of the whole. Thomas Jefferson was disappointed by the "depredations" made by Congress writing:
The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censure on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under these censures; for tho' their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. [xi]
The Committee had several meetings, in which were proposed the Articles of which the Declaration was to consist, and minutes made of them. The Committee then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me, to draw them up in form, and cloath them in a proper Dress. The Sub Committee met, and considered the Minutes, making such Observations on them as then occurred: when Mr. Jefferson desired me to take them to my Lodgings and make the Draught. This I declined and gave several reasons for declining. 1. That he was a Virginian and I a Massachusettensian. 2. that he was a southern Man and I a northern one. 3. That I had been so obnoxious for my early and constant Zeal in promoting the Measure, that any draught of mine, would undergo a more severe Scrutiny and Criticism in Congress, than one of his composition. 4thly and lastly and that would be reason enough if there were no other, I had a great Opinion of the Elegance of his pen and none at all of my own. I therefore insisted that no hesitation should be made on his part. He accordingly took the Minutes and in a day or two produced to me his Draught. [xii]
This was a Proclamation that was long overdue as the fighting between the American colonists and the British forces had been going on for over a year. The Declaration, on July 4th, 1776, firstly memorialized what history has judged to be a just, moral and most persuasive treatise on why the colonies had the right to declare their independence from Great Britain. The July 2nd vote put the world on notice of the Colonies’ independence. It was, however, the Declaration’s proclamations that were designed to win the hearts and minds of the American Colonists who would be asked to continue a seemingly insuperable war against King and country. Therefore, it was essential that the Delegates not rely on the newspapers to disseminate its message to the people as most colonists could not afford the cost of purchasing a paper. Consequently, in the evening of July 4, 1776 John Hancock's Congress ordered:
That the declaration be authenticated and printed That the committee appointed to prepare the declaration superintend and correct the press. That the copies of the declaration be sent to the several assemblies, conventions and committees, or councils of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the Continental troops, and that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army. [xiii]
Broadside Produced during the night of July 4, 1776,
Authenticate your Declaration of Independence Click Here
New York will, most probably, on Monday next, when its Convention meets for forming a Constitution, join in the measure, and then it will be entitled " the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
Declaration of Independence broadsides were also sent to US Ministers Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane in France, who were to disseminate copies to the Royal Houses in Europe. We know, by evidence of Silas Deane's December 1, 1776 letter to the French Court that these broadsides were intercepted at sea:
Dated Paris, December 1, 1776May it please your Excellency.In obedience to the Orders of the honourable Congress of the United States of North America I have the honor of presenting to your Excellency the inclosed Declaration of their independence.This Declaration was dispatched to Me immediately after its being resolv’d on, but by accidents of War was intercepted, or it would have been much earlier presented. . . . during this accidental delay the United States have had a striking instance of the generous, tho just, & impartial principles by which his most Catholic Majesty is actuated, in the Treatment which their Gospels have met with in his Ports. This merits the most sincere and grateful acknowledgments of the United States, and as their agent I humbly wish the same may be express’d in the warmest Terms to his most Catholic Majesty and that he may be assured the United States will ever retain the most lively sense, of his impartial justice. I must excuse myself for addressing Your Excellency in English on Acct of my imperfect knowledge of other European Languages, and to assure you that I am with the most profound respect.Your Excellency’s most Obed’t & very humble servtSILAS DEANEAgent for the United States in North America.
November 28, 1776
May it please Your ExcellencyWe have the honor of enclosing the DECLARATION of the INDEPENDENCE of the UNITED STATES of NORTH AMERICA, with the ARTICLES of CONFEDERATION; which we desire you to take the earliest Opportunity, of laying before his Majesty, The King of Prussia; at the same time we wish he may be assured, of the earnest desire, of the United States, to obtain his Friendship; & by a free Commerce, to establish an intercourse between their distant Countries, which they are confident must be mutually beneficial. The state of the Commerce of the United States, and the advantages which must result to both Countries, from the Establishment of a Commercial intercourse; we shall if agreeable to his Majesty, lay before him. Meantime we take the Liberty of assuring your Excellency that the Reports of the advantages gained by his Britannic Majesty’s Troops, over those of the United States are greatly exaggerated, and many of them without Foundation, especially those which assert that an accommodation is about to take place, there being no probability of such an Event, by the latest intelligence, we have received from America.We have the honor to be with the most profound respectYours Excellency’s Most Obedient & Very Humble ServtsB. FRANKLINS. DEANECommissioners Plenipotentiary For The United States Of North AmericaMinister Baron Von Scolenderg
Harvard University, Houghton Library - Massachusetts Historical Society - Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library - New York Historical Society - New York Public Library - American Philosophical Society - Historical Society of Pennsylvania - Independence National Historical Park - Maryland Historical Society - Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division - Library of Congress, Manuscript Division - National Archives and Records Service -Indiana University, Lilly Library -University of Virginia, Alderman Library - Public Record Office, London, England (Admiralty Records) - Public Record Office, London, England (Colonial Office 5) - Chicago Historical Society - Maine Historical Society - William H. Scheide, Scheide Library, Princeton, New Jersey - Ira G. Corn, Jr., and Joseph P. Driscoll, Dallas, Texas - Anonymous, New York, New York - Chew Family, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - John Gilliam Wood, Edenton, North Carolina - Anonymous, purchased at Sotheby's, December 1990 - Visual Equities, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia [xvi]
Authenticate your Declaration of Independence Click Here
Yesterday at noon, the Declaration of Independence, which is published on this news paper's front page, was publicly proclaimed in English from an elevated platform in t he courtyard of the State House. Thereby the United Colonies of North America were absolved from all previously pledged allegiance to the king of Great Britain, they are and henceforth will be totally free and independent. The proclamation was read by Colonel Nixon, sheriff Dewees stood by his side and many members of the Congress, of the [Pennsylvania] Assembly, generals and other high army officers were also present. Several thousand people were in the courtyard to witness the solemn occasion. After the reading of the Declaration there were three cheers and the cry: God bless the free states of North America! To this every true friend of these colonies can only say, Amen. [xvii]
|Am Dienstag, den 9. Juli 1776, erschien in Henrich Millers Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote die deutsche Übersetzung der amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitserklärung. On Tuesday, 9th of July 1776, the German translation of the American Declaration of Independence appeared in Henrich Miller's "Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote". Photo: Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek|
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. [xx]
I am compelled, therefore, to declare that it is against my judgment and inclination. As long as a door was left open for a reconciliation with Great Britain upon honourable and just terms, I was willing and ready to render my country all the service in my power, and for which purpose I was appointed and sent to this Congress ; but as you have, I presume, by that Declaration closed the door of reconciliation, I must beg leave to resign my seat as a delegate from New York, and that I may be favoured with an answer and my dismission.
On the 2nd of July five delegates from New York were present in Congress, namely, George Clinton, Henry Wisner, William Floyd, Francis Lewis, and John Alsop, as appears by a letter of that date to the Provincial Congress, asking for instructions on the question of independence. Neither Philip Livingston nor Lewis Morris were present on that day. Yet their names are found on the Declaration of the 4th, while those of Clinton and Wisner and Alsop are not found there.
As the New York delegates had no authority to vote on the question of independence on the 4th of July, they were not authorized to sign the Declaration on that day. On the 15th, however, when the new instructions were received, they had full authority to do so ; and on the 2nd of August such of the delegation as were in the Congress subscribed their names, to wit, William Floyd, Francis Lewis, and Philip Livingston, the latter of whom took his seat in the Congress on the 5th or 6th of July; having, on his representing to the Provincial Congress, on the 26th of June, that his attendance at the Continental Congress was necessary, received permission to leave the Convention after the 29th.
Lewis Morris probably signed in September of 1776. On the 26th of August and on the 3rd of December he was in his seat in the New York Convention. In September and October he was in the Continental Congress.
Of those who were present on the 4th of July, and who did not sign the Declaration, it is sufficient to say, that when the New York delegates received authority to sign it, George Clinton, like John Dickinson, had joined the army, and was in command of the New Jersey Highlands as a Brigadier General. Henry Wisner and Robert B. Livingston also did not return to Philadelphia remaining in their seats at the New York Convention and thus were unable to sign. John Alsop, as already stated, had resigned his seat and opposed independence.
Neither Samuel Chase or Charles Carroll were in Congress on the 4th of July because they were present on that day in the Maryland Convention, then in session at Annapolis. They joined Continental Congress sometime in the middle of July, and signed with the other members on the 2nd of August, as directed by the July 19th resolution, which they voted to enact.
As for the remaining late signers, it is believed that Mathew Thornton subscribed his name as late as November. The signing any additional member was discontinued at the close of the year 1776 except for Thomas McKean who was present on July 4th and signed the Declaration in a subsequent year.
Engrossed Declaration of Independence that was signed by the Continental Congress Delegates on August 2, 1776 - image courtesy of the National Archives According to the -- National Archives and Records Administration:
John Hancock, the President of the Congress, was the first to sign the sheet of parchment measuring 24¼ by 29¾ inches. He used a bold signature centered below the text. In accordance with prevailing custom, the other delegates began to sign at the right below the text, their signatures arranged according to the geographic location of the states they represented. New Hampshire, the northernmost state, began the list, and Georgia, the southernmost, ended it. Eventually 56 delegates signed, although all were not present on August 2. Among the later signers were Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton, who found that he had no room to sign with the other New Hampshire delegates. A few delegates who voted for adoption of the Declaration on July 4 were never to sign in spite of the July 19 order of Congress that the engrossed document "be signed by every member of Congress.
Non-signers included John Dickinson, who clung to the idea of reconciliation with Britain, and Robert R. Livingston, one of the Committee of Five, who thought the Declaration, was premature." [xxi]
Mary Katherine Goddard, a Baltimore Postmaster, printer and publisher, was given the original engrossed copy of the Declaration to set the type in her shop. A copy of the 1777 Goddard printing was ordered to be sent to each state so the people would know the names of the signers:
Ordered, That an authenticated copy of the Declaration of Independency, with the names of the members of Congress subscribing the same, be sent to each of the United States, and that they be desired to have the same put upon record. [xviii]
Authenticate your Declaration of Independence Click HereToday, there are nine known Goddard broadsides that can be found.
Library of Congress, Connecticut State Library of the late John W. Garrett, Maryland Hall of Records, Maryland Historical Society, Massachusetts Archives, New York Public Library, Library Company of Philadelphia, Rhode Island State Archives. [xix]
|1777 Declaration of Independence Goddard Broadside Signatures|
The Engrossed Declaration of Independence was safeguarded all throughout the revolutionary war traveling with the Continental Congress to maintain its safety. The National Archives lists the following locations of the Traveling Declaration since 1776:
Philadelphia: August-December 1776 Baltimore: December 1776-March 1777 Philadelphia: March-September 1777 Lancaster, PA: September 27, 1777 York, PA: September 30, 1777- June 1778 Philadelphia: July 1778-June 1783 Princeton, NJ: June-November 1783 Annapolis, MD: November 1783-October 1784 Trenton, NJ: November-December 1784 New York: 1785-1790 Philadelphia: 1790-1800 Washington, DC (three locations): 1800-1814 Leesburg, VA: August-September 1814 Washington, DC (three locations): 1814-1841 Washington, DC (Patent Office Building): 1841-1876 Philadelphia: May-November 1876 Washington, DC (State, War, and Navy Building): 1877-1921 Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1921-1941 Fort Knox*: 1941-1944 Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1944-1952 Washington, DC (National Archives): 1952-present *Except that the document was displayed on April 13, 1943, at the dedication of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D. C. [xxii]
It is important we digress here to explain the history and process that virtually eradicated most of the ink on the othe engrossed signed Declaration of Independence that has become our national icon.
By 1820 the condition of the only signed Declaration of Independence was rapidly deteriorating. In that year John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, commissioned William J. Stone of Washington to create exact copies of the Declaration using a "new" Wet-Ink Transfer process. Unfortunately this Wet-Ink Transfer greatly contributed to the degradation of the only engrossed and signed Declaration of Independence ever produced.
On April 24, 1903 the National Academy of Sciences reported its findings, summarizing the physical history of the Declaration:
The instrument has suffered very seriously from the very harsh treatment to which it was exposed in the early years of the Republic. Folding and rolling have creased the parchment. The wet press-copying operation to which it was exposed about 1820, for the purpose of producing a facsimile copy, removed a large portion of the ink. Subsequent exposure to the action of light for more than thirty years, while the instrument was placed on exhibition, has resulted in the fading of the ink, particularly in the signatures. The present method of caring for the instrument seems to be the best that can be suggested.
The committee does not consider it wise to apply any chemicals with a view to restoring the original color of the ink, because such application could be but partially successful, as a considerable percentage of the original ink was removed in making the copy about 1820, and also because such application might result in serious discoloration of the parchment; nor does the committee consider it necessary or advisable to apply any solution, such as collodion, paraffin, etc., with a view to strengthening the parchment or making it moisture proof.
The committee is of the opinion that the present method of protecting the instrument should be continued; that it should be kept in the dark, and as dry as possible, and never placed on exhibition." [xxiii]
the City Gazette informs us that Mr. Wm. J. Stone, a respectable and enterprising (sic) engraver of this City has, after a labor of three years, completed a facsimile of the Original of the Declaration of Independence, now in the archives of the government, that it is executed with the greatest exactness and fidelity; and that the Department of State has become the purchaser of the plate. The facility of multiplying copies of it, now possessed by the Department of State will render furthur (sic) exposure of the original unnecessary."[xxiv]
Wet Ink Transfer Engraved Declaration of Independence
Vellum Declaration Of Independence Engraver Mark left side: "Engraved by W. J. Stone, for Dept of State, by order of " - image courtesy of Historic.us
Vellum Declaration Of Independence W. J. Stone Engraver Mark Right Side: "J Q Adams Sect of State, July 4th, 1823" - image courtesy of Historic.us
That two hundred copies of the Declaration, now in the Department of State, be distributed in the manner following: two copies to each of the surviving Signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton); two copies to the President of the United States (Monroe); two copies to the Vice-President of the United States (Tompkins); two copies to the late President, Mr. Madison; two copies to the Marquis de Lafayette, twenty copies for the two houses of Congress; twelve copies for the different departments of the Government (State, Treasury, Justice, Navy, War and Postmaster); two copies for the President's House; two copies for the Supreme Court room, one copy to each of the Governors of the States; and one to each of the Governors of the Territories of the United States; and one copy to the Council of each Territory; and the remaining copies to the different Universities and Colleges of the United States, as the President of the United States may direct. [xxv]
American Archives: Fourth & fifth series : containing a documentary history of the United States of America from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 to the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, September 3, 1783 by Peter Force and Published by M. St. Clair Clarke and Peter Force, Washington DC, 1848-1853 - image courtesy of Historic.us
Peter Force Declaration Of Independence American Archives printing W. J. Stone Mark - image courtesy of Historic.us
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United Colonies Continental Congress
18th Century Term
Elizabeth "Betty" Harrison Randolph (1745-1783)
09/05/74 – 10/22/74
Mary Williams Middleton (1741- 1761) Deceased
Elizabeth "Betty" Harrison Randolph (1745–1783)
05/20/ 75 - 05/24/75
05/25/75 – 07/01/76
United States Continental Congress
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United States in Congress Assembled
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Sarah Armitage McKean (1756-1820)
07/10/81 – 11/04/81
Jane Contee Hanson (1726-1812)
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01/22/88 - 01/29/89
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Martha Wayles Jefferson Deceased
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The author is pictured here holding the American Philosophical Society's Dunlap Declaration of Independence printed on vellum.
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