The Declaration of Independence was created over the course of June & July of 1776, was ratified on July 4th, 1776 and signed in its entirety by August 2nd, 1776. The statement within was adopted by the Second Continental Congress – that the signatories and the colonies they represented would no longer be known as such. They threw off the yoke of British rule and declared their independence. In total, 56 delegates signed the document. The largest signature was that of John Hancock, the President of Congress (because of the size of his signature, his name has become a sort of synonym for “signature”).
The Committee of Five were the drafters and presenters of the document; they included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. The committee decided that Jefferson should be the one to write the first draft and he did so over the course of 17 days. After finishing, he presented it to the Committee who reviewed it and made changes. After the review was done, Jefferson incorporated the changes and presented it, alongside the Committee, on June 28th, 1776. The presenting was illustrated decades later in the famous Declaration of Independence painting by John Trumbull.
One day before the ratification of the document, during the third reading, two passages were stricken from the Declaration of Independence. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted them:
The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under these censures, for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.
The declaration has had a long, rich history. It has served as a source of inspiration to others, a reminder of the values of the United States, and ultimately, the first document that established the notion of a United States of America as opposed contiguous tracts of land. Alongside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in United States history.
To support a good cause and own a copy of the foundational documents, this compendium is a good starting place. To learn more about whether the ideal set forth by the Revolutionaries has been achieved, These Truths comes recommended.