Since Independence Day in the United States falls on a Monday this year, I thought it only fitting to blog about it today. Next Monday, I’ll do my usual first-Monday-of-the-month blog about the books I read the previous month.
In an effort to take a slightly different approach to today’s topic, I decided to write about a few of the little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence.
1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. The Second Continental Congress voted on it on July 4, but it would be August 2 before most delegates signed it. One reason for the delay was that it took two weeks for the document to be written in a clear handwriting on a piece of parchment.
2. Five men – including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin — were given the task of overseeing the reproduction of the document. The copies were printed by John Dunlap in his Philadelphia print shop and distributed to each of the 13 American colonies. Of the perhaps hundreds of copies printed at that time, only 26 remain.
3. When a copy of the Declaration of Independence reach New York City, George Washington read it aloud from in front of City Hall. That was on July 9. Before the day was over, a riot of sorts broke out and resulted in the tearing down of a statue of King George III. (That 4,000-pound statue was sent up the East River before British troops in New York harbor could stop them. It was eventually melted down and turned into 42,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.)
4. Richard Stockton, one of the Declaration signers from New Jersey, was captured by the British on November 30, 1776. For months, he was mistreated and nearly starved until he broke down and recanted. He swore his allegiance to King George III and was subsequently released. (He took an oath of loyalty to New Jersey in December 1777.)
5. In 1989, a man in Philadelphia purchased a picture frame for $4.00 at a flea market. Much to his surprise, in the back of the frame was an original John Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence! It was sold to TV producer Norman Lear in 2000 for $8.1 million.
6. In 2009, an original John Dunlap copy of the Declaration was found in a box of papers the British captured from the Americans during the Revolutionary War. It has since found a home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
7. Just two or three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were moved from the National Archives in Washington, DC to Fort Knox in Kentucky. The Declaration was encased in 150 pounds of protective material to ensure its transport by train from Washington to St. Louis. From St. Louis, it was taken by the 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Army to Fort Knox. Those documents were returned to the National Archives late in 1944.
8. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence were just 26 years old. They were Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Edward Rutledge, both of South Carolina.
9. The University of Virginia owns two rare copies of an early printing of the Declaration of Independence. One of those possibly belonged to George Washington. After Washington died in 1799, Tobias Lear (I wonder if he’s an ancestor of Norman Lear?) who was a personal secretary of Washington’s in his later years, is thought to have stolen some of Mr. Washington’s papers.
On this 4th of July, I wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Independence Day! On this 246th anniversary of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, this experiment in democracy is under attack from within the nation.
The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution held fast and survived the attempted coup on January 6, 2021, but there are those within our country’s borders who still believe “the big lie.” They proved on January 6, 2021 that they are willing to trample on the very ideals and human rights verbalized in those documents. Democracy is far more fragile than any of us realized until that infamous day.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence (and the women in their families!) were willing to risk their reputations, their earthly possessions, and their very lives. The least we can do 246 years later is to stand up against our country’s enemies – both foreign and domestic — by letting our voices be heard in the public arena and, most importantly, at the polls.
Be sure to vote in all elections. You owe it to future generations. Otherwise, they might not have the luxury of voting, and July 4 could just become an insignificant average day for them. Don’t let that happen.
Happy 4th of July!
P.S. Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.