12 Little-Known Facts About the Declaration of Independence (Part 2)

Posted: Jul 02, 2013 12:01 AM

Last week, I highlighted four little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence. Here are a few more facts to add to those oddities:

There are at least 26 surviving paper copies of the Declaration of Independence of the hundreds made in July 1776 for circulation among the Colonies.

After Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, the Committee of Five, which was appointed to write it, was also responsible with overseeing its reproduction for proclamation to those living in the Colonies. The reproduction was done at the shop of Philadelphia printer John Dunlap.

"On July 5, Dunlap's copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These rare documents, known as 'Dunlap broadsides,' predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned," according to History's website.

6) When Gen. George Washington read aloud the Declaration of Independence in New York, a riot resulted.

History's website explains that by July 9, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of Independence had reached New York City. At the time, tensions about the Revolutionary War ran very high, with Americans split between revolutionists and loyalists. And British naval ships actually occupied New York Harbor at the time. When Washington read the words of the declaration in front of City Hall, a large crowd rallied and cheered. Later that day, they fell a statue of British King George III, melted it down and converted the lead into more than 42,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.

7) You can view rare copies of the Declaration of Independence across the country.

Scan the Internet for "Declaration of Independence" and you'll be surprised about what surfaces.

On June 25, a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence was purchased at auctioned in New York by a top executive of U.S. private equity giant The Carlyle Group for a record $632,500. It was printed in Benjamin Towne's July 6, 1776, issue of The Pennsylvania Evening Post. It was the first newspaper printing of the declaration and its second printing in any form. He plans to put it on display along with his other historical American documents.

And according to KGW.com, "two rare copies of the Declaration of Independence, never before on public display, will be featured at the Oregon History Museum on the 4th of July in celebration of the museum's new presidential exhibit 'Windows on America.'" The first copy is one of the earliest ornately displayed engraved copies, which were not available to Americans until 1818. The other is a rare copy of the original declaration by William J. Stone, whom John Quincy Adams hired to create an exact facsimile in 1802.

Of course, the other option is that you can look at the signed 1776 original at the National Archives Building in Washington, along with the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other early American documents.

8) All 56 signers of the declaration paid a price for their rebellion and our freedom.

For a number of years, an email that had some history, some legend and some falsehoods about what happened to the 56 signers of the declaration was widely circulated. But here's the real scoop, as I detail in "The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book," where I also cite the sources.

At least 12 signers had their homes and property taken, ransacked, occupied or burned. Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of William Ellery, George Clymer, Lyman Hall, George Walton, Button Gwinnett, Thomas Heyward Jr., Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton.

Robert Morris' home was overtaken, as well, and Philip Livingston lost several properties to the enemy. John Hart's farm was looted, and he had to flee into hiding.

Francis Lewis had his home and property destroyed. The enemy then jailed his wife, and she was held for months before being exchanged for wives of British soldiers.

Carter Braxton, a wealthy planter and trader, lost his ships and cargo to the British navy.

Thomas McKean wrote to John Adams in 1777 that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to" move his "family five times in three months."

Five signers were captured by the British as prisoners of war and had to endure deplorable conditions as such. One signer lost his son in the Revolutionary War, and another had two sons captured.

On Nov. 30, 1776, one signer, Richard Stockton, a lawyer from Princeton, N.J., and a longtime friend of George Washington's, was captured in the middle of the night by loyalists and jailed by the British. Stockton endured months of brutal treatment. Though he finally was released, his health never would be the same. (Over the six years of war, more than 12,000 prisoners died in prisons, compared with 4,435 soldiers who died in combat.)

And that's just a sampling of what these men sacrificed and why we honor what they did for us annually on Independence Day.

Happy Birthday, America!

Let's never forget the price our Founding Fathers paid for our freedom.

Next week, I will give the last of the 12 little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence, including the strange place a July 1776 paper copy was discovered and what is really written on the back of the leather original.