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Little Known Facts about the 4th of July

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“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

List of years that July 4 fell on Sunday: 1779, 1784, 1790, 1802, 1813, 1819, 1824, 1830, 1841, 1847, 1852, 1858, 1869, 1875, 1880, 1886, 1897, 1909, 1915, 1920, 1926, 1937, 1943, 1948, 1954, 1965, 1971, 1976, 1982, 1993, 1999 and 2010.

The copy of the Declaration of the Independence that sits in the National Archives is the signed, engrossed copy.

The most famous signature on the engrossed copy is that of John Hancock, who, as President of Congress, presumably signed first centered below the text.

In accordance with prevailing custom, the other delegates began to sign at the right below the text, their signatures arranged according to the geographic location of the states they represented. New Hampshire, the northernmost state, began the list, and Georgia, the southernmost, ended it.

Edward Rutledge (age 26) was the youngest signer and Benjamin Franklin (age 70) was the oldest signer.

The task of getting the document signed began on August 2, 1776.  Congress made sure that all states would have access to an authenticated copy of the Declaration by ordering a special printing of multiple copies on January 18, 1777 including the names of the signers be sent to each of the thirteen states.

Contrary to how it is often portrayed in books,  movies, and TV shows, the signing was not a ceremonial signing in the sense that we think of it as being. Not all of the delegates who were present at the final approval signed the document and of the signatories that appear, not all of them were present nor were all of them delegates at the time of final approval.  Of the roughly fifty delegates who are thought to have been present in Congress during the voting on independence in early July 1776, eight never signed the Declaration:  John Alsop, George Clinton, John Dickinson, Charles Humphreys, Robert R. Livingston, John Rogers, Thomas Willing, and Henry Wisner.

Eight men signed the Declaration who did not takes seats in Congress until after July 4: Matthew Thornton, William Williams, Benjamin Rush, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, George Ross, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Elbridge Gerry, Lewis Morris, Oliver Wolcott, Thomas McKean, Richard Henry Lee and George Wythe were present at the debates when final approval was given, but they signed after August 2nd.

The committee that oversaw the drafting process was made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman, who in turn instructed Thomas Jefferson to write the declaration.

Jefferson began his work on June 11 and it has been said he wrote as many as a dozen drafts. After presenting his final draft, the committee further revised the document and submitted it to the Continental Congress on June 28. On July 2, the Continental Congress voted for independence and refined its Declaration of Independence before releasing it to John Dunlap on the afternoon of July 4th for publication.

Around 200 “Dunlap broadsides” were published and read publicly across the colonies.  The first copies that were read publicly did not have the signer’s names listed.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post (which would later become the first daily newspaper in 1783) is the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence, on July 6, 1776; the Pennsylvania Gazette publishes the Declaration on July 10 and the Maryland Gazette publishes the Declaration on July 11; the first two public readings of this historic document include one given by John Nixon on July 8 at Independence Square, Philadelphia, and another on the same day in Trenton; the first public reading in New York is given on July 10; the first public readings in Boston and Portsmouth, N.H., take place on July 18; three public readings take place on the same day on  July 25 in Williamsburg;  a public reading in Baltimore takes place on July 29; in Annapolis on August 17 at a convening of the convention, “unanimous” support of the tenets of the Declaration are expressed.

In 1801, Jefferson hosts the first public Fourth of July Executive Mansion reception.

On the 50th anniversary of the signing (actually refinement) of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die.

Sources

“Fourth of July Celebrations Database”                        http://gurukul.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm

Charters of Freedom: A New World is at Hand                               http://archives.gov/exhibits/charters/

Friedenwald, Herbert, “The Declaration of Independence: An Interpretation and an Analysis” New York: Macmillan, 1904

Written by chrisforliberty

July 2, 2010 at 10:57 am

Posted in U.S. History

One Response

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  1. […] 1. Contrary to how it is often portrayed in books,  movies, and TV shows, the signing was not a ceremonial signing in the sense that we think of it as being. Not all of the delegates who were present at the final approval signed the document and of the signatories that appear, not all of them were present nor were all of them delegates at the time of final approval.  Of the roughly fifty delegates who are thought to have been present in Congress during the voting on independence in early July 1776, eight never signed the Declaration:  John Alsop, George Clinton, John Dickinson, Charles Humphreys, Robert R. Livingston, John Rogers, Thomas Willing, and Henry Wisner. Additionally, eight men who signed the Declaration did not takes seats in Congress until after July 4… […]


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