By Scot Feldmeyer
BarryStaff of Cincinnati – Weekly newsletter 6/30/11
The 4th of July or Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. It celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This wasn’t when the Revolutionary War started and it’s not when the English surrendered. It IS the day when we formally agreed that we considered ourselves separated and Independent from England. It’s the day we declared ourselves to be an independent and free country. It was the official start of the United States of America.
So what happened before that? The Boston Massacre happened in 1770. The Boston Tea Party was in 1773. The first Continental Congress met in 1774. Paul Revere had his famous ride in April of 1775 just a day before the battles at Lexington and Concord. George Washington was made Commander of the American Army in June of 1775 just two days before the battle of Bunker Hill. The Patriots and Redcoats had all kinds of battles in the first half of 1776 leading up to July 4th. The war didn’t end until the Treaty of Paris on September 3rd. 1783. The casualty count was American dead and wounded 50,000+, English dead and wounded 20,000+.
On June 7, 1776 Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, read a resolution before the Continental Congress “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.”
On June 11, congress took a three week break to consider “Lee’s Proposal.” During this period the “Committee of Five” (John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson) drafted the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson drafted it, while Adams and Franklin made changes to it. Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776. On July 2, the Lee resolution was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies (New York did not vote). Immediately afterward, Congress began to consider the Declaration. Congress made some alterations and deletions to it on July 2, 3, and the morning of the 4th.
Late in the morning of July 4, the Declaration was officially adopted, and the “Committee of Five” took the manuscript copy of the document to John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress. On the morning of July 5, copies printed by John Dunlap were dispatched by members of Congress to various committees, assemblies, and to the commanders of the Continental troops. (On July 9, the action of Congress was officially approved by the NY Convention.) On July 19th Congress ordered that the Declaration be “fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile of ‘The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America’ and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.” It actually took a while for everybody from the original Congress to get their signatures on the parchment copy that we know so well. The document was signed by most of the members on August 2. George Wythe signed on August 27. On September 4, Richard Henry Lee, Elbridge Gerry, and Oliver Wilcott signed. Matthew Thornton signed on November 19, and Thomas McKean signed in 1781.
Singers of the Declaration of Independence TRIVIA:
Q. Who was the oldest signer in 1776?
A. Ben Franklin at age 70
Q. How many signers were born in Europe?
Q. Which Signer was also a musician?
A. Francis Hopkinson was a lawyer and a musician
Q. Which signer lived the longest?
A. Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He lived to be 95.
Q. How many signers were also clergymen?
A. Two – Lyman Hall and John Witherspoon
Q. Which colony had the most representatives?
A. Pennsylvania – they had nine.
Q. Who was the youngest signer?
A. Edward Rutledge was born November 23, 1749 making him 26.
(Thomas Lynch Jr. was also 26 but he was born a few months earlier in August 1749)
Q. How many signers were physicians, lawyers, printers?
A. Four were physicians, twenty-four were lawyers, one was a printer.
Q. What happened on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration.
A. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”