Founding Fathers Blog

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 2

June 26th, 2012

The committee for the preparation of a draft of a declaration of independence was made up of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. They met together to decide which of them would write the intial document for consideration. It was proposed that Benjamin Franklin, the oldest, wisest, most experienced of the team should be the scrivener. He declined, arguing that it wouldn’t be proper or smart for him to write the original document, as his son, William, had remained a loyalist, and was then the Governor of New Jersey.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had received recognition as writers, so it seemed likely that one of them should be selected. Jefferson noted only, the committee “desired me to do it.”

John Adams left a more interesting account.

“The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed me to make the draft. I said: ‘I will not. You ought to do it.’

[Jefferson] Oh, no! Why will you not? You ought to do it.’

‘I will not.’

[Jefferson] ‘Why?’

‘Reason’s enough.’

[Jefferson] ‘What can be your reasons?’

‘Reasons are: first-you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second-I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third-You can write ten time better than I can.’

‘Well’, said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.'”

Jefferson wrote his masterpiece in 17 days, after his attendance at the congressional meetings during the day.

Tom was a young attorney, 33 years of age. He turned to “neither book nor pamphlet to pen his timeless words.

To be continued…

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