Independence Day

Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, an idealized depiction of (left to right) Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson working on the Declaration was widely reprinted (by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1900). Courtesy Wikipedia.

Independence Day, the fourth of July, is celebrated as the birthday of the United States. It was not, as some believe, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Given that this was a congress-the Continental Congress, the precursor to the United States Congress-it is no surprise that things took longer than expected.

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had proposed a resolution for independence, which was finally adopted without opposition, on July 2, 1776. John Adams believed that the second of July would be the day celebrated. However, even though the resolution had been passed, the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was not approved until two days later with copies printed and distributed.

Although the language of the Declaration of Independence was approved on 4 July, there is historical debate as to when the document was actually singed. The best information is that about three-quarters of the members of Congress signed it on that date. Others are believed to have signed it after 2 August. This included several who had not yet been elected to Congress on 4 July 1776. In any case, once the Declaration was passed on 2 July,, it was official.

I would ask you to read the last sentence of this marvelous document.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

How many members of Congress today would commit so completely to our nation?

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