DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, AMERICAN, agreed upon July 4, 1776, by the thirteen American colonies then in revolt against England. Its history is brief but important. Early in 1776, the delegates in congress from Massachusetts were directed to vote for independence of England. Soon afterwards several other colonies sent similar instructions. Washington wrote: " A reconciliation with Great Britain is impossible. When I took command of the army I abhorred the idea of independence; but I am now fully satisfied that nothing else will save us." Pennsylvania and New York were the last to acquiesce in the demand for a declaration. The tenor of these instructions to the delegates from their constituents was in favor of cutting loose from Great Britain entirely and forming an independent government. June 7, 1776, Richard henry Lee moved in congress that " these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states." Four days later the motion was adopted, and two com mittees were raised to present a declaration and the plan of a confederation. On the declaration committee were Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, and Roger Sherman. They reported June 28, but action was delayed, as the New York and Pennsylvania congressmen having received no special instruction, thought they had no authority to vote for the declaration. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas
Jefferson, and but very slightly changed from his copy. When it came up for final action it received the vote of every delegate. The vote was taken by colonies, and every colony gave unanimous approval. It was immediately signed by the names of 56 members present, and as soon as the slow means of printing and circulating in those days could spread it, it went forth not only as the defiant answer of the colonies to the demands of the mother country, but as a claim for the political emancipation of man kind. It ought to be known by heart by every boy and girl in America. Not many years ago the reading in full of the Declaration of Independence was considered as necessary in any social celebration of the 4th of July as a prayer in religious services; but in these days, partly from carelessness, but more from the large infusion of for eigners whose habits and ideas have greatly modified the primitive notions of our own people, the custom has fallen into disuse.