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Second Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776

Second Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776

We have looked at Richard Henry Lee’s Resolution on Independence. We have learned about the Committee of Five who was responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence. We have read every line of the document and picked them apart. But what happened after it was adopted?

As already discussed the member of the Second Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776. That should have been America’s birthday. It is not and the Declaration is the reason why.

The duties of the Committee of Five were not complete with the presentation of the Declaration to Congress. They still had one task to complete – getting it printed. As already shown, the Declaration was not signed on the 4th because it was not ready. On that date only John Hancock and Charles Thomson as president and secretary signed the draft which was then delivered to printer John Dunlap. Dunlap worked through the night and the next morning, July 5th, the Dunlap Broadsides were complete. It is estimated that around 200 of these were produced and sent out to the Patriot leaders in each state, to the Continental Army, and of course to Europe. John Adams even sent one to his wife Abigail in Massachusetts. These copies were read aloud in towns across the country, and the people were so moved that it was the date of the Declaration which is honored. Today there are 26 Dunlap Broadsides still known to exist.

The more familiar hand written Declaration was the work of Timothy Matlack, a name which should be familiar to fans of the film National Treasure. Matlack was a Philadelphian known for his fine penmanship. The engrossed copy he created was the one which was signed by the members of Congress. This copy was produced not on paper but on parchment, a material made from sheep or other animal skin. Today there are multiple copies of the engrossed Declaration made from the original. One of these copies is kept at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Another, thought to be Jefferson’s own copy, is in the possession of the Library of Virginia. The original, the one signed on August 2nd, 1776 is kept in the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the Dunlap Broadsides and the engrossed copy a third well-known edition was produced. In 1777 Congress asked Mary Katherine Goddard to create a new broadside which would include the signatures, something the Dunlap Broadsides did not include. Nine of these still exist.

The fact that multiple copies of a 200 year old document have been preserved with such care and are so highly valued by collectors should give us pause to consider how well we value this original founding document.

One thought on “Second Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776

  1. I Know its the 4th………. but, they should have required the parade celebrations should be on the week-ends………….for bigger parties.

    Happy 4th.

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