Thomas Jefferson – Writer of the Declaration of Independence

Did you know …

 

In June of 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five delegates to write the Declaration of Independence.  The people on the committee were John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

Jefferson had rented a bedroom with a parlor in the home of Jacob Graff, Jr., a bricklayer. He wrote the Declaration in Philadelphia while staying in his rented rooms.

The committee discussed the wording of the Declaration. Thomas Jefferson wrote the earliest draft. It appears that John Adams and Benjamin Franklin also made some changes on the document during the committee’s discussion.

After Congress voted for independence on July 2, they looked at the Declaration. They worked on changes to the document until July 4.

Jefferson had worked hard on the wording and he didn’t enjoy listening to all the “improvements” suggested to change his handiwork, but it was important for the colonies to be satisfied with what was written.

As President of Congress, John Hancock signed the document on July 4, along with the Secretary, Charles Thomson. After all the changes, the original paper was pretty messy, so Congress ordered a clear copy to be written on parchment so it could be signed by the delegates. It wasn’t ready until August 2, when most of the delegates signed it.

On July 6, the Declaration of Independence was published in the Evening Post in Philadelphia. On July 8, the Liberty Bell rang and the Declaration was read on a platform behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Riders carried printed copies of the Declaration to the states to spread the news.  Many rejoiced and celebrated the news, which had spread throughout the country by the end of August.

Thomas Jefferson accomplished many things in his life, including becoming our third President after serving as Vice President under President John Adams.  He asked to be remembered for three things, which he requested to be engraved on his tombstone:

“Here was buried Thomas Jefferson/author of the Declaration of American Independence/ of the Statue of Virginia for religious freedom/ and Father of the University of Virginia.”

He died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1826 – the same day that his fellow committee member, John Adams, passed away.

– Sandra M. Hart

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