Little Bits of History

June 11

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 11, 2017

1776: The Committee of Five convenes. As the American Colonies began to prepare for their separation from the British Empire, they were tasked with creating their own system of governance. The First Continental Congress took place between September and October 1774 and managed to unite the colonies in efforts to control their own fates. They were able to institute a boycott of British products (and numbers dropped 95% in 1775) and if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed, they would also stop exporting to England. Their other major accomplishment was to provide for a second meeting on May 10, 1775 – the Second Continental Congress.

The Second Continental Congress appointed five men to create a document outlining how their new country would be separate from the British Empire. This Second meeting was essentially a continuation of the first with many of the same delegates present. Notable inclusions in the second which were absent from the first were Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock. Peyton Randolph, president of the First meeting was in the same position for the Second until he was recalled to Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was his replacement delegate. Although Henry Middleton was elected as replacement president, he declined and Hancock took over the position.

The Committee of Five was tasked with creating a declaration of war, declaring the colonies in defiance of British authority and demanding their own government without British involvement or influence. The five men given the job of creating what we know as the Declaration of Independence were John Adams from Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson from Virginia, Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, and Robert Livingston of New York. They began by assigning Jefferson the authorship of the document. He had a very limited time in which to create a document supporting the Lee Resolution, in which America would declare to the world their intentions. In only 17 days, Jefferson completed the first draft and presented it to the Congress as a whole on June 28, 1776.

The rest of the Committee of Five had the chance to edit Jefferson’s work before presentation to the Committee of the Whole. One of the changes was to replace Jefferson’s longer phrase with the iconic “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. At 6.26 PM, the draft version was placed before all the delegates. There was some hammering out of phrasing and last minute changes before the accepting vote held on July 4, 1776. Late in the morning, the Second Continental Congress accepted the Declaration of Independence and the following day, the Dunlap broadside made the Declaration public with just one signature attached. It wasn’t until August 2 that a parchment document was available and all 56 members could affix their “John Hancock” to the important paper.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, he separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. hat these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. – all from the Declaration of Independence


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