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DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
July 4, 1776
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia in the Second Continental Congress, at Philadelphia, offered the following resolution:
"Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between t hem and the state of Great Britain is, and of right ought to be, totally dissolved."
After a debate lasting several days, this resolution was laid on the table, and a committee of five was elected to get up a formal declaration which would be submitted to the Congress when the Lee resolution would again be taken up. The five were, in order of their election, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
Thomas Jefferson was then a little past thirty-three years of age. His ability as a thinker and a writer was well-known. The committee met immediately after appointment. Jefferson suggested that Adams should draw up the Declaration. Adams objected, saying: "You can write ten times better than I can." The others agreed that Jefferson ought to make the first draft, and he consented.
At some time in the following three weeks, Jefferson wrote the paper. We are led to believe he did it at one sitting, or one day, or night.
Many years later he remarked: "Whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection, I do not know. I only know that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it." The original draft in Jefferson's handwriting is preserved at Washington. It is written upon four large sheets--about foolscap size.
--Excerpt from American Anniversaries: Every Day in the Year: Presenting Seven Hundred and Fifty Events in United States History, from the Discovery of America to the Present Day by Philip Robert Dillon (The Philip R. Dillon Publishing Company, 1918)