Declaration of Independence.
It was very important to have Lee
's resolution for independence, offered June 7, 1776, prefaced by a preamble that should clearly declare the causes which impelled the representatives of the people to adopt it. To avoid loss of time, a committee was appointed (June 11) to prepare such declaration.
The committee was composed of Thomas Jefferson
, John Adams
, Benjamin Franklin
, Roger Sherman
, and Robert R. Livingston
. Mr. Lee
having been called home before the appointment of the committee, Mr. Jefferson
was put in his place.
He was requested by the committee, after discussing the topics, to make a draft of a declaration of independence
It was discussed in committee, amended very slightly, and finally reported.
Debates upon it were long and animated.
There was some opposition to voting for independence at all, and it was considerably amended.
It was evident from the beginning that a majority of the colonies would vote for independence (the vote in Congress was by colonies), but it was important that the vote should be unanimous.
The declaration was warmly debated on the day (July 2) when the resolution was passed, and also on the 3d.
Meanwhile news came of the arrival of a large British armament, under the brothers Howe, at Sandy Hook
Immediate and united action was essential.
, one of the two representatives of Delaware
present, burning with a desire to have the vote of his colony recorded in the affirmative, sent an express after the third delegate, Caesar Rodney
He was 80 miles from Philadelphia
Ten minutes after receiving McKean
's message Rodney
was in the saddle, and, riding all night, he reached the floor of Congress (July 4) just in time to secure the vote of Delaware
in favor of independence.
All three of the delegates from Delaware
voted for the declaration.
The vote of Pennsylvania
was also secured, a majority of its seven delegates being in favor of the measure; and on the 4th of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence
was adopted by the unanimous vote of the thirteen colonies.
On Thursday, July 4, 1776, agreeable to the order of the day, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider the declaration, President John Hancock
in the chair.
The secretary, Benjamin Harrison
, reported that the committee had agreed upon a declaration, which was read and adopted as follows: