by Timothy Lane 7/2/16
American independence is celebrated on July 4, but the process involved several other days with important decisions, one of which was arguably more important.
On May 15, 1776, the Virginia House of Burgesses instructed its delegation at the Second Continental Congress to propose an American declaration of independence. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee made that proposal, and it was probably essential that it come from a colony other than Massachusetts.
Congress assigned a committee to write a declaration, even though they hadn’t voted yet for independence. This was written by Thomas Jefferson and submitted to Congress on June 28.
On July 2, Congress finally voted for independence. New York still abstained from voting (they were still awaiting instruction from the colonial legislature), but every other colony voted in favor. John Adams, pleased with the vote, said July 2 should be commemorated in the future “with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to another.” This is why I have chosen to make this entry.
After that, Congress took up Jefferson’s declaration and proceeded to make a number of edits (such as eliminating his anti-slavery clause, which would have invited a charge of hypocrisy)/ This was approved on July 4, and signed by John Hancock. After a fine copy was made, there was a mass signing on (it’s believed; records aren’t reliable) August 2, though many signed later.
Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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