Founding Fathers Blog

Declaration of Independence — July 2?

August 17th, 2012


The resolution that the American colonies should break from Great Britain and become free and independent states was proposed by Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, in the Continental Congress, and was unanimously adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776.

The adoption of this resolution on that date caused John Adams to write home to Abigail. He thought that date, July 2, would become the great day of American celebration for independence. He wrote to her:

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated the America, and a  greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among Men . . . .The Second Day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha [sic], in the history of America.– I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [sic], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”  (His capitalization retained.)

Well, he missed it by a couple of days!

The official verbiage of the document as drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was not adopted until after more debate. It was approved by Congress on the 4th of July, 1776, which, as you know, has become our real day of celebration. Only John Hancock, as the President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, the secretary, actually signed on that date.

John Hancock announced that he had signed his name in especially large style so that King George III would not need to put on his spectacles to discern his signature. This symbolic gesture has led to the standard statement for contracts, etc., “put your John Hancock right here.” John Hancock was already at this time one of the American rebels who had a bounty on his head for his capture for the King.

The Declaration was then sent to have its lettering “engrossed” or professionally and expertly written in its now familiar attractive script and style. Most members of Congress then returned to Philadelphia to sign the new and captivating document on August 2, 1776. Some the next day.

Josiah Bartlett, the representative from New Hampshire, is credited with being the first man to attach his signature to this newly engrossed inspired document. John Hancock must have signed moments later, in the top middle portion reserved for signatures–again in his bold, large and audacious configuration.

Josiah Bartlett, a name not often remembered, wanted to be, and became the first and foremost to sign the formal and original Declaration of Independence. He went on to become the first President or Governor of the now new free and  independent State of New Hampshire. Like John Hancock, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, he was another fearless leader advocating and declaring independence for our New Nation.  These were some Uncommon Heroes.

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