THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The Philosophical Club of Cleveland
The Playhouse Club
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Once upon a time, 230 years ago, in 1774, the people of the American Colonies decided to declare their independence from Great Britain and King George the 3rd.
They formed a Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia and all 13 Colonies were represented there. Following a resolution by Richard Henry Lee on June 7th 1776 which they adopted, a committee was appointed. There were 5 men, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman [a Connecticut merchant] and Robert Livingstone [a New York lawyer] to write the draft. Jefferson was appointed the Chairman and he did all the work. The rough draft was written by Jefferson, with minor corrections written in by Adams and Franklin The document was submitted to Congress on July 1st.
After a heavy revision by Congress the final draft was completed. It was signed with great relish by every one present and published for all to see. It was well received. The public have adopted July 4th as the day to celebrate their independence ever since.
Fifty years after the signing, in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th.
The text of the Declaration of Independence has become an icon in American history, something akin to Scripture. [QV American Scripture by Pauline Maier 1997] The 4th of July is still the most important American public holiday.
Well there you have my paper, such as it is. You may all go home now or you can stick around and we can explore the subject in a little more detail.
First, let’s get one small fact correct. There is no document, nor was there ever a document, with the title of The Declaration of Independence. It is known instead as "A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in General Congress Assembled." Let us not get too picky, everybody calls it the Declaration of Independence, don’t they?