THE NATION’S INFANCY
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE LISTED REASONS TO SEPARATE from Britain and principles for the new American polity. The decision to become politically autonomous of England was coupled with a framework for a new governmental structure beholden to the will of the people. However, the political, social, legal, and economic culture of the day did not match the Declaration’s idealism; the document’s contemporaries understood as much. The Declaration of Independence signaled an unwavering willingness to end the privileges of aristocracy, yet blacks, unpropertied white men, and women were barred from participating in representative democracy. The revolutionary generation began tackling its own shortcomings but left fulfillment of its legacy to future generations.
The original printed version of the Declaration, known as the “Dunlap Broadside” of July 4, 1776, listed only John Hancock and Charles Thomson as signatories. They received the honor, along with the intrinsic risk of capture, in their separate capacities as the president and secretary of the Second Continental Congress. Not until January 18, 1777, did Congress order that the Declaration be republished with the names of subsequent signers, which had until then been cloaked in secrecy. In the meantime,