Tuesday, August 2, 2016

240 Years Ago...They Signed.

Blogger: Amber Schamel

This picture is often thought to be the signing of the Declaration,
but it is actually the presentation of the document by the committee.
Did you know the Declaration of Independence wasn't signed by all of the delegates until August 2nd, 1776? Sure, they adopted the resolution a month before, but the signing didn't happen until a month later. Actually, the timeline of the Declaration is fairly complex. Here are few tidbits I enjoyed discovering. :)

On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a committee to draft a declaration. The men appointed were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston. This committee appointed Jefferson to be the primary author of the document. This is probably partially due to the fact that he was a Virginian and they were in need of support from the Virginian delegates.

Drafting a Declaration
June 28th Jefferson and the committee presented the first draft of the Declaration to Congress. I can only imagine being poor Thomas as his work was presented to so many men (many of them good writers) to critique and tear apart. The debate over this document and the entire idea of independence went on for several days. Several major changes were made to the document, including pulling out a clause regarding slavery.

July 2nd, Congress voted to declare independence from Britain.

July 4th BUT, it wasn't until two days later that they adopted Jefferson's final draft of the document. That's where the discrepancy between July 2nd and 4th comes from. Only John Hancock, as the president of the Assembly, and Secretary Charles Thompson signed the document adopted on July 4th. This original was sent to John Dunlap to be printed. Several copies were made, but the exact number is uncertain. 24 are known to exist. One of them was George Washington's own personal copy.

July 5th is when the first of the Dunlap prints of the document were dispatched to State legislatures.

July 6th brought the first newspaper printing of the document in the Pennsylvania Evening Post.

July 8th is said to have held the first public reading of the Declaration.

Pulling down King George's statue
July 9th George Washington has the Declaration read aloud to the army in New York. At this time, there was a large British force assembling against them. The reading so moved the men that some of them rushed down to the Bowling Green and slung ropes over the bronze statue of King George, pulled it down, and sent it off to be melted down and used to make bullets.

July 19th Congress gave the order for an official copy of the Declaration to be engrossed and signed by the members.

On this day 240 years ago, August 2nd, The delegates began to sign this glorified copy. 56 Congressional Delegates in total signed the Declaration of Independence, including the men not present for the vote. Most of them signed August 2nd. There were, however, a few delegates that refused to sign the Declaration. John Dickenson of PA and the three delegates from NY, Robert Livingston, John Jay, and James Duane.

August 10th News of the Declaration finally arrives in London. A newspaper reported a short blip from a letter from General Howe that was dated July 7th or 8th. “I am informed that the Continental Congress have declared the United Colonies free and independent States.”

Of course, in America, independence celebrations were short lived in 1776 because the army suffered a terrible defeat after the New York campaign...but that is the beginning of another story. 

Author of over half a dozen books, including Dawn of Liberty, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Subscribe for exclusive content and newsletter updates at


  1. Amber, thank you for sharing this important historical information. Dawn of Liberty was a great read from Samuel Adams view. I enjoyed reading Dawn of Liberty and look forward to reading more of her HIStory books in the future.

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.