The Declaration of Independence, which became one of the most important documents in American history, wasn’t written on a single date, but rather over a period of time between June 11 and July 4, 1776. The document is an announcement that the thirteen American colonies now regard themselves as sovereign, independent states, no longer part of the British Empire. By the time Congress voted on independence, the document was already drafted.
Congress decided to order a draft declaration on June 11, 1776 and appointed a committee of five men to do so: Robert R. Livingston, Tomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. How exactly the drafting process proceeded is unclear, as the committee didn’t leave any minutes of their meetings. They had however decided that Jefferson was to write the first draft. Apparently they initially wanted to appoint Adams, but he insisted that Jefferson do the writing. Somewhere over the next 17 days Jefferson created the first draft, drawing inspiration from George Mason’s draft of the Declaration of Rights of Virginia and his own draft of the planned Virginia Constitution.
Jefferson wrote several drafts, consulted with the committee and made some changes before presenting it to Congress on June 28. Congress, after voting in favor of independence, took the document and revised it, deleting about a fourth of the content and made other changes that Jefferson was not entirely happy with. The final document was approved on July 4, 1776 and sent to the printers.
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