Being about a week away from Independence Day, I was doing a little reflecting upon the history surrounding the Declaration of Independence. And I thought it would be of equal interest to many of my readers to look at some often-overlooked aspects of the declaration's production and legacy.
Several historical websites hold some fascinating facts about this national treasure -- including the National Archives and Records Administration's site, at http://www.archives.gov. In addition, on History's website, the article "9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence," by Elizabeth Harrison, has some intriguing notes. Let me elaborate on some of those and convey a few others I've discovered.
1) Benjamin Franklin wrote the first declaration of independence.
In April 1775, the Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord. On July 5, 1775 -- an entire year before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence -- the Continental Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition, written by John Dickinson, which appealed directly to British King George III for reconciliation between the Colonies and Great Britain. Though Franklin signed the petition for the sake of consensus, he radically differed with it and said that stronger sentiments were necessary because the petition was destined to be rejected.
He was so appalled by British atrocities and exhausted of British rule that he planned the first articles of confederation and drafted a declaration of independence to be issued by none other than Gen. George Washington. So strong was the language of the draft that Thomas Jefferson wrote that though some members of Congress -- including him -- "approved highly of it," some were "revolted at it." Jefferson explained in his private commentary that "proposing it to Congress as the subject for any vote whatever would startle many members."
It seems Congress just wasn't ready to throw down the gauntlet yet. My, how things can change in a year!
2) Jefferson had problems with the adopted version of the Declaration of Independence, which was written primarily by him.