In honor of the 240th Independence Day of the United States of America, here is the history of the Declaration’s conception.
Beginning with the Proclamation of 1763 stating that colonists could not settle on the land that they had just fought an entire war to gain, the thirteen colonies of America had been wrestling with King George III. Following the instatement of other policies that they found unfair such as the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Act, Tea Act, and the “Intolerable” Acts, the people were ripe for rebellion. Albeit the colonists were divided on whether to revolt or continue allegiance to the crown of England, the First Continental Congress met in late 1774 to discuss the tensions between them and the mother country. After a month, they disbanded.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 18th and 19th, 1775 are written in history today as being the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, but at the time, not everyone saw it this way. Some people still argued that the relationship with England could still be remedied and that the king would see, sense, and listen to their voice on the issue of his injustices. But by this time, a majority agreed that something had to be done. The Second Continental Congress met in May following these fights. Most of the colonies voted yes in favor of independence, but a few others were still reluctant to break away.
In the meantime, the Congress formed a committee of five men: Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. The men outlined the primary ideas and designated Jefferson to write the first draft. After numerous revisions by the rest of the committee and the Congress, the final draft was ready to be presented.
The vote for the document took place on July 2nd. Many colonies altered their standpoint on the issue. Many of the delegates who previously voted no for declaring independence changed their votes to yes. In Delaware’s case, another delegate was added to break the tie between the two previously existing representatives. Out of the thirteen colonies, twelve voted for independence. Only New York remained silent; the New York delegates had not been instructed to vote affirmative, so they abstained from voting at all until they were given the green light.
The Declaration of Independence was ratified by Congress on the famous day, July 4th, 1776. New York finally said yes five days later on July 9th. The Declaration was signed on August 2nd, almost a month after its approval. Yet the 4th of July remains today the transfixed date that the citizens of America celebrate their independence, and most importantly, the birth of their nation.