July 1776 – The Month of Independence

How much do you actually know about what happened on and around July 4, 1776? We all know that July 4th is the birthday of the United States, but is it really.

Events that lead up to the birth of the US started with a Resolution by Richard Henry Lee, a representative to the Second Colonial Congress from Virginia. The Virginia House of Burgesses on May 15, 1776 resolved 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.”

Lee presented on June 6, 1776, a resolution to congress that read;

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.

Debate began on the resolution, but it was decided to wait for three week so that the delegates could send the resolution to their home colonies and receive direction on which way to vote. But it also appeared to those present that the resolution would pass and that there needed to be a suitable declaration for the resolution.

On June 11, 1776, a committee consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut was formed. They were known as the Committee of Five.

The committee delegated that Jefferson would write the draft. Jefferson and the committee worked on it from June 12 until June 27. Franklin and Adams made several minor corrections and the entire committee made additional changes and additions, a total of forty-seven alterations including the insertion of three complete paragraphs from Jefferson’s original draft. Jefferson then produced another copy incorporating these changes and the committee presented this copy to the Continental Congress on Friday June 28, 1776.

Monday July 1st congress started debate on the Lee Resolution. On July 2, 1776 a final vote was taken. It was passed. South Carolina still wasn’t in favor of independence, but Edward Rutledge, who opposed independence and had many motions to delay the vote, convinced the delegation that for the sake of unanimity, they should vote in favor. The New York delegation abstained, since they did not have instructions from their home government on which way to vote.

In a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3 he said;

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

Finally at a little after 11 o’clock on the morning of July 4, 1776, after many hours of debate during the previous two days and thirty-nine revisions to the committee’s draft, including the deletion of language that denounced King George III for promoting the slave trade, the Declaration of Independence was approved. John Hancock, as President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress signed the document. The New York delegation again abstained from the vote, but approved the Declaration five days later.

It wasn’t until July 19th that congress ordered that the Declaration to be officially inscribed and signed by its members. Congressional delegates began to sign the officially inscribed copy on August 2. It was even signed by some members who had not voted for its adoption.

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Published on August 18, 2007 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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