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Delegates sign Declaration of Independence

Delegates sign Declaration of Independence

On August 2, 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

Exactly one month before the signing of the document, Congress had accepted a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee that stated “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.”

Congress adopted the more poetic Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, two days later, on July 4. The president of Congress, John Hancock, and its secretary, Charles Thompson, immediately signed the handwritten draft, which was dispatched to nearby printers. On July 19, Congress decided to produce a handwritten copy to bear all the delegates’ signatures. Secretary Thompson’s assistant, Philadelphia Quaker and merchant Timothy Matlack, penned the draft.

News of the Declaration of Independence arrived in London eight days later, on August 10. The draft bearing the delegates’ signatures was first printed on January 18 of the following year by Baltimore printer Mary Katharine Goddard.

READ MORE: Writing of the Declaration of Independence


The 56 People Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Everybody knows that the Fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the historic document by means of which the 13 American colonies severed their political connections with Great Britain and declared themselves to be the United States of America.

Except that the Declaration wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July. The colonists formally declared their independence on July 2, which John Adams promptly called “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” predicting that it “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

As Independence Day draws near, 24/7 Wall St. is taking a look who the 56 signers of the Declaration were. We drew on sources such as USHistory.org , the website of the non-profit Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Association to compile our list.

It was on July 4, however, that the Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration — after jointly making some 86 changes in the draft composed by Thomas Jefferson and four colleagues.

But that still wasn’t when this seminal document of our nation was signed. That happened, for the most part, on Aug. 2 — but at least five signers didn’t affix their signatures to the Declaration until the following weeks.

All those who signed the Declaration were delegates to the Second Continental Congress , which met in Philadelphia. The Congress was a convention of representatives from the various colonies. The first one, held in 1774, sought to ease rising tensions between the British and the colonists, while safeguarding the rights of the latter.

The second Congress, which met from 1775 through 1781, was more radical , and ultimately decided that full independence from Great Britain was essential. Thomas Jefferson was charged with overseeing the drafting of a declaration to that effect. (Jefferson, of course, went on to become our third president, and is in the top ten when historians rank every president .)

The Congress also appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, which was already involved in battles with the British in what grew into the Revolutionary War — one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history.

There’s little doubt what occasion Pennsylvania would claim in a listing of the most important historical event in every state .

The majority of the delegates — all of them men — who signed the Declaration had been born in one of the 13 colonies, though a few were native to Great Britain or Ireland. Many were gentleman farmers, and many — sometimes the same ones — were attorneys. Most were well-to-do, though some lost their fortunes during the Revolutionary War or subsequently.

Some of the signers are world famous — among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams — and some are obscure. The majority owned slaves — 41 of the 56, according to one study — though there were also ardent abolitionists among their number. Some came to bad ends one lived to the age of 95.

Whoever they were, one thing is certain: These 56 signers put their lives and livelihoods on the line for the cause of American independence, and without their actions we’d have nothing to celebrate as a nation — on the Fourth of July or any other date.


Contents

The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, with 12 of the 13 colonies voting in favor and New York abstaining. The date that the Declaration was signed has long been the subject of debate. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams all wrote that it was signed by Congress on the day when it was adopted on July 4, 1776. [1] That assertion is seemingly confirmed by the signed copy of the Declaration, which is dated July 4. Additional support for the July 4 date is provided by the Journals of Congress, the official public record of the Continental Congress. The proceedings for 1776 were first published in 1777, and the entry for July 4 states that the Declaration was engrossed and signed on that date (the official copy was handwritten). [2]

In 1796, signer Thomas McKean disputed that the Declaration had been signed on July 4, pointing out that some signers were not present, including several who were not even elected to Congress until after that date. [3] "No person signed it on that day nor for many days after", he wrote. [4] His claim gained support when the Secret Journals of Congress were published in 1821. [5] The Secret Journals contained two previously unpublished entries about the Declaration.

On July 15, New York's delegates got permission from their convention to agree to the Declaration. [6] The Secret Journals entry for July 19 reads:

Resolved That the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America" & that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress. [7]

The entry for August 2 states:

The declaration of Independence being engrossed & compared at the table was signed by the Members. [7]

In 1884, historian Mellen Chamberlain argued that these entries indicated that the famous signed version of the Declaration had been created following the July 19 resolution, and had not been signed by Congress until August 2. [8] Subsequent research has confirmed that many of the signers had not been present in Congress on July 4, and that some delegates may have added their signatures even after August 2. [9] Neither Jefferson nor Adams ever wavered from their belief that the signing ceremony took place on July 4, yet most historians have accepted the argument which David McCullough articulates in his biography of John Adams: "No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia." [10]

Legal historian Wilfred Ritz concluded in 1986 that about 34 delegates signed the Declaration on July 4, and that the others signed on or after August 2. [11] Ritz argues that the engrossed copy of the Declaration was signed by Congress on July 4, as Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin had stated, and that it was implausible that all three men had been mistaken. [12] He believes that McKean's testimony was questionable, [13] and that historians had misinterpreted the July 19 resolution. According to Ritz, this resolution did not call for a new document to be created, but rather for the existing one to be given a new title, which was necessary after New York had joined the other 12 states in declaring independence. He reasons that the phrase "signed by every member of Congress" in the July 19 resolution meant that delegates who had not signed the Declaration on the 4th were now required to do so. [14]


Thank you!

In Goddard, the Founding Fathers found someone who was on the same wave length as they were &mdash radical, and revolutionary for her time.

When British troops got dangerously close to Philadelphia, the Continental Congress evacuated to Baltimore and made the Henry Fite House their headquarters, from Dec. 20, 1776, to Feb. 22, 1777. During that two-month period, Mary Katherine Goddard was not only publishing a newspaper, but also overseeing delegates’ mail and the printing of Congressional documents.

Goddard published a version of the text of Declaration of Independence for readers of the Maryland Journal just a few days after July 4, but six months later she was asked to print a particularly important edition of it. Among the milestones that this printing represents, it’s the only “official” version printed by a woman, the first that lists (most of) the signers &mdash 55 out of the 56 signers are there, sans Thomas McKean, who is thought to have signed the document later &mdash and the first to be entitled “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” Ten copies of this document, which has also been called the “Goddard Broadside,” survive nationwide.

John Hancock described the importance of the version of the Declaration printed by Goddard in a letter that went out with the deliveries, dated Jan. 31, 1777:

As there is not a more distinguished event in the history of America, than the Declaration of her Independence,&mdashnor any, that in all probability, will so much excite the attention of future ages, it is highly proper, that the memory of that transaction together with the causes that gave rise to it should be preserved in the most careful manner that can be devised.

I am therefore commanded by Congress to transmit you the enclosed copy of the Act of Independence, with the list of the several Members of Congress subscribed thereto&mdashand to request that you will cause the same to be put upon Record, that it may henceforth form a part of the Archives of your State, and remain a lasting testimony of your approbation of that necessary and important measure.

And Goddard took a huge risk printing the document, too. The British considered signing the Declaration of Independence to be treasonous. As Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett has explained, “The Declaration constituted high treason against the Crown. Every person who signed it would be executed as traitors should they be caught by the British.” As postmaster, Goddard was also believed to have paid post-riders out of her own savings during the American Revolution.

But the British wouldn’t be the ones to force Goddard to leave the job. That dubious honor would go to the leaders of the new American government, ironically.

Her patriotism during the Revolution appeared to be disregarded after the ratification of the Constitution. The nation’s first Postmaster General Samuel Osgood forced her out as postmaster in 1789. The official reason was because there was going to be more business travel in the position, and that might overwhelm a woman. But historians believe it’s more likely that Osgood wanted to appoint a political ally to Baltimore postmaster instead the Smithsonian describes her as “one of the new Republic&rsquos earliest victims of what would become known in the nineteenth century as the postal service&rsquos patronage system.” Friend and colleagues signed a petition to reinstate her, and Goddard appealed to George Washington, but he refused to intervene. Historians think that may have been because she socialized with his opponents, the Anti-Federalists.

Goddard ended up running a shop selling dry goods, stationary and books up until her death on Aug. 12, 1816 her will freed her slave, Belinda, and left Goddard’s possessions to her.

Goddard’s patriotism may not be widely known, but it hasn’t been forgotten. Vice President Mike Pence singled out “patriots like Mary Katherine Goddard” at a Women History Month reception in March, calling her one of “the extraordinary women who&rsquove helped define America&rsquos history.”


Signing of the Declaration of Independence

A chronology of the drafting, adoption, and initial publication of the nation&rsquos founding document.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

Voting on the Declaration of Independence

After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House. Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Rush wrote of the “pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress,” to sign “what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants.”

Painting by Robert Edge Pine

This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Leveled by

The famous printed version of the Declaration of Independence is decorated with the words "In Congress, July 4, 1776." It is boldly signed by John Hancock and the founders at the bottom. Curiously, it was not officially signed July 4th. The document, so important to the United States of America, was written through a process that took time and cooperation.

Beginning Drafts of the Declaration

In May of 1775, Congress was seated in the Pennsylvania State House. Weeks earlier, hostilities had broken out between the British troops and colonial soldiers in Massachusetts. The British king had ignored a written complaint sent by Congress earlier that stated the colonists' frustrations. In August of 1775, the King declared the colonies to be in open rebellion. Congress swiftly formed a Continental Army under the command of George Washington. Support was steadily growing throughout the colonies for independence from Great Britain.

On June 7, 1776, a Virginia lawmaker named Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution in Congress. This resolution stated that the colonies had the right to be independent states. It also declared that colonies should be free from allegiance to the British Crown. Lastly, it stated that all political connection to Britain should be dissolved. Other town and colonial groups were issuing similar pleas.

Such a strong action demanded careful deliberation. On June 11, Congress organized a process to clarify this resolution. It appointed a five-member committee to draft a public statement that would further explain the reasons for declaring independence should Congress decide to do so. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were on the committee. Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman were also appointed. The fifth member, Thomas Jefferson, was chosen to be the document's principal drafter. After incorporating suggestions by Adams and Franklin, the committee submitted its draft declaration to the Congress on June 28.

Congress debated the declaration on July 1. Nine colonies were prepared to vote in favor. Delegates from South Carolina and Pennsylvania were opposed. Two Delaware delegates were stuck about their decision. The New York delegates were unable to vote, since they were instructed to cooperate with the king. Overnight, however, the situation changed. On July 2, Caesar Rodney rode in to Philadelphia from Delaware, bringing a tie-breaking vote in favor of independence. South Carolina shifted its position in favor, and the Pennsylvania opponents chose to stay away. When the vote was called on July 2, the written statement passed by a vote of 12 to zero, with New York abstaining. After this historic decision, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, predicting that future Americans would celebrate independence July 2.

Further Edits and First Printing

Fueled by growing threats of battle with the British, Congress began debating the declaration. They made further edits to the writing, yet left in Jefferson's passionate opening paragraphs. On July 4, Congress approved the final draft.

That evening, the complete text of "a Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America" was ordered to be printed. It is believed that about 200 copies were published on July 5. Only about 25 still exist today. The document was signed by John Hancock. It was read aloud in front of the statehouse in Philadelphia on July 8. Over the next few weeks it was reprinted in newspapers up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

It wasn't until July 9 that New York finally joined the other colonies. A few days later, the news reached Philadelphia that the colonies were fully united upon independence. On July 19, Congress ordered an official copy of the declaration for the delegates to sign.

Signing the Declaration

On August 2, 1776, Congress members signed the declaration inside the Pennsylvania State House. Not every man who had been present on July 4 signed the declaration on August 2. Two important officials passed up the chance to sign and others were added later. The first and largest signature was that of the president of the Congress, John Hancock.

The mood in the room was far from celebratory. Everyone was aware of what they were undertaking. It was an act of high treason against the British Crown that could cost each man his life. Recalling the day many years later, Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a civic leader in Philadelphia wrote about how awful and silent the house was as each member was "called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress." There they signed "what was believed . at that time to be our own death warrants."

After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House. Pennsylvania&rsquos Benjamin Rush wrote of the &ldquopensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress,&rdquo to sign &ldquowhat was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants.&rdquo


Did any of our "Founding Fathers" NOT sign the Declaration of Independence?

George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison are typically counted as "Founding Fathers", but none of them signed the Declaration of Independence.

General George Washington was Commander of the Continental Army, and was defending New York City in July 1776. As instructed by John Hancock, Washington read the Declaration of Independence to the army on July 9th.

John Jay was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775-1776 (and would later become its President), but was recalled by his home state in May. He was initially more moderate, a supporter of reconciliation rather than rebellion, but his views became progressively more radical over the course of the American Revolution. Edward Rutledge wrote Jay on June 29th, imploring him to come to Philadelphia for what he anticipated would be a monumental week he clearly believed Jay would be against the Declaration, telling him, "recollect the manner in which your Colony is at this Time represented." John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1823 that although Jay was absent from the proceedings in Congress, he felt confident that Jay would have signed the Declaration of Independence had he been present.

Only 19 years old in the summer of 1776, Alexander Hamilton was with the Continental Army in New York City when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, approved, and signed.

In 1776, James Madison was just 25 years old, and a member of the Virginia state legislature. When Madison became a delegate to the Continental Congress four years later, he was the youngest delegate, just 29 years old. His longevity--surviving the 2nd and 3rd presidents, Adams and Jefferson, by a decade--combined with his role as Father of the United States Constitution and as 4th President of the United States, caused people to believe he had inside knowledge of the events surrounding the Declaration of Independence, even though he wasn't there. The best connection he could draw in response was that he was a close friend of Jefferson, and that he was a member of the Virginia legislature when they instructed their delegates to Congress to declare independence. As he wrote to Frederick A. Packard (author of Life of George Washington) in 1830, "But not being a member of the Congress of that date, I can have no personal knowledge of what passed on the occasion." Despite having no connection to July 4th, many wished that Madison, who was dying in June 1836, would last until the holiday so he could share the distinction of dying on the same national holiday as Adams and Jefferson. Instead, he died on June 28, 1836, on the 60th anniversary of the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration to Congress.


On this day, the Declaration of Independence is officially signed

August 2, 1776, is one of the most important but least celebrated days in American history when 56 members of the Second Continental Congress started signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

Officially, the Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when it approved a resolution in a unanimous vote.

After voting on independence on July 2, the group needed to draft a document explaining the move to the public. It had been proposed in draft form by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson) and it took two days for the Congress to agree on the edits. Thomas Jefferson was the main author.

Once the Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4, it was sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the Dunlap Broadside were printed, with John Hancock&rsquos name printed at the bottom. Today, 26 copies remain. Then on July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read a printed Declaration of Independence to the public for the first time on what is now called Independence Square.

Many members of the Continental Congress started to sign an engrossed version of the Declaration on August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia. John Hancock&rsquos famous signature was in the middle, because of his status as President of the Congress. The other delegates signed by state delegation, starting in the upper right column, and then proceeding in five columns, arranged from the northernmost state (New Hampshire) to the southernmost (Georgia).

Historian Herbert Friedenwald explained in his 1904 study of the Second Continental Congress that the signers on August 2 weren&rsquot necessarily the same delegates at the Congress in early July when the Declaration was proposed and approved.

&ldquoAttempting now to determine the names of some of those who were present on the day officially appointed for signing the engrossed document (August 2), we reach the conclusion that a far greater number than has generally been supposed were not in Philadelphia on that day either,&rdquo said Friedenwald, who determined discrepancies between the delegates perceived to sign the document on July 4 and the actual delegates who started signing the Declaration on August 2.

Friedenwald said there were 49 delegates in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, but only 45 would have been able to sign the document on that day. Seven delegates were absent. New York&rsquos eight-person delegation didn&rsquot vote at the time, while it awaited instructions from home, so it could never have signed a document on July 4, he said.

Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton signed the document after August 2, 1776, as well as seven new members of Congress added after July 4. Seven other members of the July 4 meeting never signed the document, Friedenwald said.

However, the signers&rsquo names weren&rsquot released publicly until early 1777, when Congress allowed the printing of an official copy with the names attached. On January 18, 1777 printer Mary Katherine Goddard&rsquos version printed in Baltimore indicated the delegates &ldquodesired to have the same put on record,&rdquo and there was a signature from John Hancock authenticating the printing.

Scott Bomboy is the editor in chief of the National Constitution Center.


Declaration of Independence

The Committee in charge of drafting the Declaration of Independence: delegates John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.

Second Continental Congress

After the Hutchinson Affair in 1773 English authorities accused Benjamin Franklin of treason. He was consequently relieved of his post as Postmaster General and decided to return to America to continue his fight for independence. At the advanced age of 70 and with poor health he continued his involvement in politics and in congress.

The conflict between Britain and its colonies in America had escalated beyond just taxation. The colonies were looking for representation in the British Legislature but were denied that right. They knew they would be better off by governing themselves, they were growing more confident as they created liaisons in Europe.

Franklin was back in America in May 1775 shortly after the Concord and Lexington Battles in Massachusetts. Colonies joined forces and met at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in June 1776 to manage war efforts and set the stage for independence. Franklin was elected Pennsylvania delegate to the Congress.

Franklin participated in several committees of Congress. He served in a committee to create paper currency, the new Continental currency. Franklin also headed a committee to organize the new American post office which was to run parallel to the British post, he was made Postmaster General. He was also part of the committee that created policies and rules of the Continental Army. Franklin was an advocate of free trade and submitted a resolution proposing free trade among colonies with no duties whatsoever. The resolution was adopted with proviso that individual colonies could impose their own import duties. By the end of 1775 Franklin was also appointed to the committee of secret correspondence to deal with foreign affairs and start gathering support from Britain’s enemies.

Declaration of Independence

As colonies demanded more independence they arrived to the conclusion that they could not reach an agreement with Britain. The colonies were economically tied to Britain and needed commercial agreements with other European countries. The only way Europeans would sign trade agreements was if America was recognized as an independent country. In June 1776 a motion was made in Congress for a Declaration of Independence. Franklin was part of the five-member committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, other members were John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The Committee of Five presented the document to Congress on June 28, 1776. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft which was submitted on July 2, that same day Congress voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. On July 4 the Continental Congress approved the wording of the document which was sent to print.

John Hancock, president of Congress, was the first to sign the document. Other delegates signed on August 2 and the last person to sign was Matthew Thornton, New Hampshire delegate.

At the end of 1777 delegates of congress formulated the Articles of Confederation which was unanimously ratified by all colonies. It established a central government in a more permanent union of states and a unified foreign policy.


How Many Men Signed the Declaration of Independence?

The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 people. Although John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, signed the document on July 4, 1776, most of the delegates probably added their signatures on Aug. 2, 1776. The last signer added his name on Nov. 4, 1776.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a symbolic gesture, as it had already become official by congressional vote. John Hancock's signature was not only the first but also the largest. It was so iconic that his name became synonymous with the word "signature." Historians disagree about whether most of the delegates signed on July 4 or August 2. However, some delegates must have signed later than July 4 because they joined Congress after the July 4 adoption of the document. The last person to sign was Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, who joined the Continental Congress in November, 1776, and signed in the lower right corner of the document. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge, at 26 years old, and the oldest was Benjamin Franklin, at 70 years old.

Not all the delegates to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. Some had voted against it, while others were away when the document was being signed. The first version sent out to the states did not include all 56 signatures, but on Jan. 18, 1777, Congress mandated that another version that included the signatures be distributed to the 13 states.


Signing of the Declaration of Independence

A chronology of the drafting, adoption, and initial publication of the nation&rsquos founding document.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

Voting on the Declaration of Independence

After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House. Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Rush wrote of the “pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress,” to sign “what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants.”

Painting by Robert Edge Pine

This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Leveled by

The famous text of the Declaration of Independence states "In Congress, July 4, 1776." It is boldly signed by John Hancock and the other founders of the United States. Curiously, this wasn't the official date it was signed. The important declaration of the United States was actually drafted several times by brave leaders. Its history deserves a closer look.

Beginning Drafts

In May of 1775, Congress gathered. Weeks earlier, hostilities broke out between the British troops and colonial soldiers in Massachusetts. Colonists were angered with Britain's rule in America. By August, the king declared the colonists to be rebels. Congress swiftly formed an army under the command of George Washington. Support was growing steady within the colonies for independence from Great Britain.

On June 7, 1776, a lawmaker from Virginia named Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution in Congress. It was written to convince Congress to demand independence from Britain. Other town and colonial groups were writing similar pleas. They insisted that the colonies should be free from ties to the Crown.

This caused Congress to create a five-member committee to write a more detailed public statement. The committee would clearly explain the reasons for declaring independence. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were on the committee. Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman were also chosen. Thomas Jefferson was selected to be the chief drafter. After including suggestions by Adams and Franklin, the committee gave its draft declaration to the Congress on June 28.

Congress debated the declaration on July 1. At first, nine colonies were prepared to vote for independence. Two states were opposed, two were torn, and New York declined to vote. Then the situation changed overnight. On July 2, Delaware broke the tie in the vote for independence. Two states shifted in favor. When the vote was called on July 2, the declaration passed by a vote of 12 to zero. After this historic decision, John Adams wrote to his wife predicting that future Americans would mark their independence with a festival every second of July.

Further Edits and First Printing

Mounting concern about battle caused Congress to toil more over the declaration. They continued to edit, but made sure to use Jefferson's stirring words. On July 4, Congress approved the final draft.

That evening, the complete version was set to print. It was called "a Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America." It is believed that about 200 copies were published on July 5. Only about 25 still exist today. The paper was signed by John Hancock. It was read aloud in front of the statehouse in Philadelphia on July 8. Over the next few weeks it was reprinted in newspapers up and down the Atlantic coast.

On July 9, New York finally agreed to the vote. A few days later, news reached Philadelphia that the colonies were fully united in the decision. On July 19, Congress ordered an official copy of the declaration for the delegates to sign.

Signing The Declaration

On August 2, 1776, Congress members signed the declaration. Not every man who had been present on July 4 signed the declaration on August 2. Two important officials passed up the chance to sign and others were added later. The first and largest signature was that of the president of the Congress, John Hancock.

The mood in the room was far from celebratory. Everyone was aware of what they were undertaking. It was an act of high treason against the British Crown that could cost each man his life. Recalling the day many years later, Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a leader in Philadelphia, wrote about how awful and silent the house was as each member was "called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress." There they signed "what was believed . at that time to be our own death warrants."

After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House. Pennsylvania&rsquos Benjamin Rush wrote of the &ldquopensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress,&rdquo to sign &ldquowhat was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants.&rdquo