First Draft of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson’s First Draft of the Declaration of Independence

The History of the Declaration of Independence and America’s Independence Day

America’s 13 Colonies were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. The battle cry “No Taxation without Representation” is well known. British troops were sent in to subdue the rebellion. The Colonists tried to resolve the crisis without using military methods but in vain. The Colonies’ Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on June 11, 1776 and formed a committee to draft the document that would formally sever all ties with Great Britain. Among the members were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson drafted the original document (as seen attached), since he was deemed the best writer in the Committee. There were eighty-six changes to his draft and the final version was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The next day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, and The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the document. The Declaration of Independence has always been our nation’s most revered symbol of liberty.

Celebrations of Independence Day

Public readings of the Declaration of Independence were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and patriotic band music on July 8, 1776. The following year, in 1777, Philadelphia added fireworks to the bells and bonfires and adjourned Congress for the day. Other towns took up the custom and celebrated with marches, speeches, picnics, games, military displays and of course, fireworks. After the end of the war of 1812 with great Britain, this holiday was even more fervently celebrated. Today, communities across the Nation continue with this tradition.

In Thomas Jefferson’s last letter ever written, declining Roger C. Weightman’s invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Independence Day in Washington, DC. due to ill health, he says about the Declaration of Independence:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”                                                      Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826 Monticello