The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence



The committee for drawing up the Declaration of Independence had intrusted that task to Thomas Jefferson, who, though at that time only thirty-three years of age,--between seven and eight years younger than John Adams, and a mere juvenile as compared with Franklin, both of whom were on the committee,--was chosen for a work of great difficulty and importance, because he was held to possess a singular felicity in the expression of popular ideas (as evinced in previous state papers), and because he represented the province of Virginia, the oldest of the Anglo-American colonies. Jefferson, having produced the required document, reported it to the House on the 28th of June, when it was read, and ordered to lie on the table. After the conclusion of the debate on the resolution of independence on the 2d of July, the Declaration was passed under review. During the remainder of that day and the two next, this remarkable production was very closely considered and shifted, and several alterations were made in it.

Several changes had been made in the original draft by the committee, though just what they were is not known. The principal changes made by Congress were the omission of those sentences which reflected upon the English people, and the striking out of a clause which severely reprobated the slave-trade.

The debate on the proposed Declaration came to a termination on the evening of the 4th of July. The document was then reported by the committee, agreed to by the House, and signed by every member present, except General Dickinson.

The signature of New York was not given till several days later, and a New Hampshire member, Matthew Thornton, was permitted to append his signature on November 4 four months after the signing.





Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 2)