A Broadside View of the Declaration of Independence

By Sabato, George | Social Studies Review, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

A Broadside View of the Declaration of Independence


Sabato, George, Social Studies Review


Did you know the original Declaration of Independence no longer exists? That's right! The President and Secretary of the Continental Congress, John Hancock and Charles Thompson, were the only signers of the original Declaration of Independence! This first copy has been lost.

Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was created by the work of a committee? The Continental Congress formed a committee to draft a declaration of independence as a follow-up to the resolution presented on June 7 by Richard Henry Lee which proposed that the colonies declare their independence from the British. June 1 1 , 1 776, the Continental Congress selected Thomas Jefferson as its first member. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman were also appointed to the committee. This committee selected Thomas Jefferson to create the first draft which Benjamin Franklin and John Adams reviewed and edited and submitted to the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress then made numerous deletions and changes to the draft presented by the committee.

Did you know the colonies declared independence on July 2? This is the day John Adams thought our nation would be celebrating for centuries to come, for on July 2 the Continental Congress passed the resolution presented on June 1 1 by Richard Henry Lee. It passed with a 12-0 vote. After this vote, the draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented by the committee, debated, edited and passed by a 12-0 vote on July 4 and New York ratified on July 6, 1776.

Do you know how many copies of the Declaration of Independence were made? John Dunlap was given the task of printing 200 broadside copies, signed in print only by Jefferson and Thompson. These copies were distributed to members of the Continental Congress. Copies were then dispersed to appropriate people in the colonies informing them of the action taken by the Continental Congress. Theses copies were read in churches and posted on walls across the land. King George only received a broadside copy as his notification that his colonies had declared their freedom from the British Crown.

Do you know how many copies of the broadsides exist today? Of the original 200 copies, only 25 are known to exist. One copy recently sold for $8 million at auction. This copy will be on display at the California Council for the Social Studies Conference on March 5, 2010 in Pasadena. Norman Lear and his wife Lyn, purchased the copy in 2000 for $8. 1 million. They created the non-profit youth voter registration organization, Declare Yourself, which has partnered with The Pearson Foundation to take the document across the Nation thus bringing "the people's document" directly to the American people.

What is the document on display in Washington, D.C., that we know as the "original" Declaration of Independence? The Continental Congress decided to make a parchment copy featuring the signatures of 56 members of the Continental Congress. Prominently featured at the center was the signature of the Continental Congress' President, John Hancock.

Who was the first President of our nation? Some would argue that John Hancock has earned that honor by being President of the Continental Congress at the time independence was declared.

It has been argued, however, that our nation came into existence on a variety of dates other than that of the date of our Declaration of Independence. This could be a great opportunity for students to research and debate. Some of the proposed dates are presented at hrtp://forgottenfounders.org/birthdays.htm*. On this site there is a great video of students presenting their arguments for a variety of "birthdays" of our country.

Which of the following dates should be considered as our Nation's birthday?*

September 4, 1774 - Continental Congress first caucuses in the City Tavern of Philadelphia.

September 5, 1774 - Continental Congress officially convenes for me first time in Carpenters Hall. …

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