The "Actual" Signing of the Declaration of Independence – 8/2/1776

US History |

On July 4th, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence as they separated from Great Britain and become their own territory. Nearly a month later, the members of Congress joined together and penned their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence, making it official. 

All in all, there were 56 delegates that were in attendance that would put pen to paper and sign one of the most important documents our nation has ever written. In fact, there were even some delegates that were in attendance to sign the document that weren’t at the vote that approved the document. However, there are some things to note about the signees of the document. First off, there were a small group of people that refused to sign the document. Those people were: John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, James Duane of New York, Robert Livingston of New York and John Jay of New York. In addition, there were four people that opposed the document, though they would later choose to sign it to keep Congress “unanimous” with the decision. Those people were Carter Braxton of Virginia, George Reed of Delaware, Robert Morris of Pennsylvania and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina.

In addition, there were five delegates that were not in attendance, those being James Clinton, John Sullivan, Christopher Gadsden and George Washington – who were all Generals – and Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia.

One month prior to the signing, Richard Henry Lee put forth a resolution that read:

“Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

Although that pretty much gives the gist of what the Declaration of Independence said, the Congress decided to still go out and adopt the Declaration of Independence as the official document. Immediately after being written, John Hancock – President of Congress – and his secretary, Charles Thompson, signed the document that was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson. They then sent it to the printers for publication. They ended up making several hand-made copies that would bear the delegates’ signatures individually.

The news would quickly spread once it was officially signed into our land. The news would arrive in London just 8 days after it was signed by all of the delegates. However, the document – with all of the signatures – wouldn’t first be printed until January 18, nearly 6 months after it was signed. It was printed by Mary Katharine Goddard. 

The Declaration of Independence starts out:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” 

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