The Declaration of Independence wasn’t actually signed on July 4th, although the final language was announced by the Continental Congress on this day in 1776. The vote itself, inside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (then known as the Pennsylvania State House) took place two days earlier. It made for a suspenseful scene in second episode of the miniseries John Adams — you can learn a lot more from cable television than you ever did in school.
The most remarkable part of the story is that nobody’s certain King George II ever received a copy. There There were about 200 broadsides produced by a Philadelphia printer (you know, keepin’ it local) John Dunlap. There are 26 known copies today, including one recently found in England’s National Archives in Kew, and another found in a Pennsylvania garage sale. Whether or not an actual Declaration, listing grievances against the King, was ever delivered to his highness is highly uncertain.
This 1961 documentary album by Stan Freberg recreates the conversation between Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as the thirty-one year old member of the Second Continental Congress traveled to Franklin’s home to get his signature on the Declaration of Independence.
Both Jefferson and Franklin were members of the “committee of five,” who were assigned the task of declaring independence from the British crown. The other members were JohnAdams, Roger Sherman and Roger Livingston — you can thank Livingston that you and we, here in Minneapolis, are part of these glorious United States, for it was he who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
Adams had nominated Jefferson for the job of creating the Declaration’s first draft. The two became bitter political enemies over the course of their lives, only to reconcile through the encouragement of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who also signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776. The correspondence between Adams and Jefferson, now elder statesmen removed from the political fray, has provided historians with enormous insight into the United States’ formative years.
Adams and Jefferson both passed away on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Adams was at home in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Jefferson on his plantation at Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia. They were preceded in death by Franklin (1790) and Rush (1813). The last surviving signer of the Declaration was Charles Carroll, who lived until 1832.
We hope you have a safe fourth of July as you pursue happiness. Your friendly neighborhood record store will be closing early at 5pm.