Sunday, February 28, 2010


Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom
National Archives (NARA) building, Washington, D.C.
Here displayed are the Declaration of Independence
the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution
Source Photo taken by Kelvin Kay
From Wikipedia

Throughout the 1760s and 1770s, relations between Great Britain and her American colonies had become increasingly strained. Fighting broke out in 1775 at Lexington and Concord marking the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Although there was little initial sentiment for outright independence, the pamphlet Common Sense by Thomas Paine was able to promote the belief that total independence was the only possible route for the colonies.
(, Inc.)

Common Sense
From, Inc.

Common Sense (above) was a pamphlet first published on January 10, 1776 during the American Revolutionary War by Thomas Paine. Its pages contained a denouncement of British rule.
Arguments against British rule in Common Sense:
It was ridiculous for an island to rule a continent.
America is not a "British nation"; it is composed of influences from all of Europe.
Even if Britain was the "mother country" of America, that makes her actions all the more horrendous, for no mother would harm her children so brutally.
Being a part of Britain would drag America into unessecary European wars, and keep it from the international commerce at which America excelled.
(, Inc.)
In 1761, fifteen years before the United States of America burst onto the world stage with the Declaration of Independence, the American colonists were loyal British subjects who celebrated the coronation of their new King, George III. The colonies that stretched from present-day Maine to Georgia were distinctly English in character although they had been settled by Scots, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, Swedes, Finns, Africans, French, Germans, and Swiss, as well as English.
As English men and women, the American colonists were heirs to the thirteenth-century English document, the Magna Carta, which established the principles that no one is above the law (not even the King), and that no one can take away certain rights. So in 1763, when the King began to assert his authority over the colonies to make them share the cost of the Seven Years' War England had just fought and won, the English colonists protested by invoking their rights as free men and loyal subjects. It was only after a decade of repeated efforts on the part of the colonists to defend their rights that they resorted to armed conflict and, eventually, to the unthinkable–separation from the motherland.

King George encroaches on the independence of the colonies through taxation without representation.
Increased tension between the British and the Colonies leads to violence, governmental action and revolutionary prose.
The beginning of the War of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation are introduced while major battles are fought in the war.
The ratification of the Articles of Confederation and the conclusion of the war.
The first few years as a new nation.
The meeting of the Constitutional Conventional and the ratification process.(Founders' Library)

National Archives
Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses
and the Constitutional Convention

By the spring of 1775, peaceful protest gave way to armed conflict at Lexington and Concord. Ignoring one last, futile plea for peace in a message known as the Olive Branch Petition, the King proclaimed in this document that the colonies stood in open rebellion to his authority and were subject to severe penalty, as was any British subject who failed to report the knowledge of rebellion or conspiracy. This document literally transformed loyal subjects into traitorous rebels.

This document bears the signatures of eighty-seven delegates
National Archives, Records of the Continental
and Confederation Congresses
and the Constitutional Convention

Three months after the King declared every rebel a traitor, and with a reward posted for the capture of certain prominent rebel leaders, the delegates to Congress adopted strict rules of secrecy (signed above) to protect the cause of American liberty and their own lives.
The sole governing authority presiding over the tumultuous events of the American Revolution between 1774 and 1789 was a body known as Congress. With no power to regulate commerce or lay taxes, and with little ability to enforce any of its decisions, this group, representing the thirteen colonies, declared independence, conducted a war that defeated one of the greatest military powers of its day, and invented a new political entity that became a sovereign independent nation. Its members pondered everything from the rightness of independence to the number of flints needed by the armies–sometimes with the enemy not far from their doorstep. Asserting their rights, they found themselves labeled as traitors.
The fifty-four men who composed the First Continental Congress represented different interests, religions, and regions; they held conflicting opinions as to how best restore their rights. Most did not know each other; some did not like each other. With no history of successful cooperation, they struggled to overcome their differences and, without any way of knowing if the future held success or nooses for them all, they started down a long and perilous road toward independence.
The Declaration announced to the world the separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain and the establishment of the United States of America. It explained the causes of this radical move with a long list of charges against the King. In justifying the Revolution, it asserted a universal truth about human rights in words that have inspired downtrodden people through the ages and throughout the world to rise up against their oppressors.
On July 4, 1776, in the old State House in Philadelphia, a group of patriotic men were gathered for the solemn purpose of proclaiming the liberty of the American colonies. From the letters of Thomas Jefferson, which are preserved in the Library of Congress, considerable data concerning this portentous session were gathered. In reconstructing the scene, it is well to remember that if the Revolutionary War failed, every man who had signed the parchment then lying on the table would be subject to the penalty of death for high treason.
It should also be remembered that the delegates representing the various colonies were not entirely of one mind as to the policies, which should dominate the new nation. There were several speeches. In the balcony patriotic citizens crowded all available space and listened attentively to the proceedings. Jefferson expressed himself with great vigor; and John Adams, of Boston, spoke and with great strength. The Philadelphia printer, Dr. Benjamin Franklin quiet and calm as usual, spoke his mind with well chosen words.
The delegates hovered between sympathy and uncertainty as the long hours of the summer day crept by, for life is sweet when there is danger of losing it.
The lower doors were locked and a guard was posted to prevent interruption.
(Excerpted from, The Secret Destiny of America by Manly P. Hall)
Throwing off the British monarchy on July 4, 1776, left the United States with no central government. It had to design and install a new government–and quickly. As early as May 1776, Congress advised each of the colonies to draw up plans for state governments; by 1780, all thirteen states had adopted written constitutions. In June 1776, the Continental Congress began to work on a plan for a central government. It took five years for it to be approved, first by members of Congress and then by the states. The first attempt at a constitution for the United States was called the Articles of Confederation.

By John Trumbull
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
Commissioned 1817; purchased 1819
placed 1826 in the Rotunda
From Independence Hall Association

The first painting (above) that Trumbull completed for the Rotunda shows the presentation of the Declaration of Independence in what is now called Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The painting features the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence — John Adams, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson (presenting the document), and Benjamin Franklin — standing before John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. The painting includes portraits of 42 of the 56 signers and 5 other patriots. The artist sketched the individuals and the room from life.
(Independence Hall Association)

Thomas Jefferson
3rd President of the United States
By Charles Willson Peale, Philadelphia, 1791
Source Jefferson-peale
Author Charles Willson Peale
From Wikipedia

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1800
From Wikipedia

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1805
Source New York Historical Society
From Wikipedia

Jefferson sketched out a working draft, followed by a month's worth of approval cycles with Congress. The result was a precisely worded communique designed to achieve several critical public opinion goals:
-- To generate support for the rebellion by the many Americans who were still ambivalent about the idea. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported the Declaration first on July 6. Public readings followed throughout the colonies, galvanizing the population toward a visionary common cause.
-- To give meaning to a demoralized colonial Army that had already been fighting the British for more than a year. General Washington had his personal copy of the Declaration read to tired, sick and undersupplied soldiers in New York on July 9, as hundreds of British warships and troop carriers entered the harbor in preparation for battle.
-- To frame the issue so foreign governments might help the colonies. Since most of the potential allies were themselves monarchies -- and many with colonies -- the Declaration made a point of articulating the problem to be King George, not kings and queens.
-- To force the issue with every member of Congress. Signing the Declaration made things very black and white. Either they must win the revolution or face death as traitors to the crown.
What could be called the first official announcement from these United States also didn't hesitate to spin the facts for effect. Historians point out that many of the Declaration's complaints about the King and Parliament were selective, out of context and greatly exaggerated.

Print of the Declaration of Independence made in 1976
200th anniversary
National Archives, Unaccessioned Record

John Hancock
Oil on canvas, c. 1770-1772
Current location Massachusetts Historical Society
Boston Source Massachusetts Historical Society
From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia
This print (above) suggests what the original parchment looked like when it was presented to Congress for the delegates to sign on August 2, 1776.
John Hancock, the President of Congress, was the first to sign; his signature is larger than any other on the page and directly centered below the text. The signatures of the other delegates are arranged from right to left, according to the geographic locations of their states, beginning with New Hampshire, the northernmost, on the right, and ending with Georgia, the southernmost, on the left. Eventually, fifty-six delegates signed, although not all of them were present on August 2; some who were present for the vote on July 4 never signed.

Declaration of Independence
Now exhibited in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom
Washington, DC
The document measures 29-3/4 inches by 24-1/2 inches

The original signed Declaration (above) shows signs of fading, handling, and aging. As a symbol of the Revolution’s highest ideals, it has been lovingly handled and proudly displayed over many years. Its present condition is evidence, not of indifference or neglect—but of extreme devotion. To preserve it for future generations, today it is on display, sealed in the most scientifically advanced housing that preservation technology can provide.

Preserving the United States Declaration of Independence
National Bureau of Standards,1951
Department of Commerce Photographic Services
Author Original uploader was Flyhighplato at Wikipedia

Richard Henry Lee
1st United States Secretary for Foreign Affairs
October 20, 1781 – June 4, 1783
From Wikipedia

President John Adams (1735-1826)
2nd president of the United States
by Asher B. Durand, 1767-1845
Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C
From Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin
by Joseph Siffred Duplessis
Oil on canvas, 1778
Current location National Portrait Gallery London
Source National Portrait Gallery, London
From Wikipedia

Roger Sherman
by Ralph Earl
Oil on canvas ca. 1775
Current location Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, Connecticut
From Wikipedia

Additional references to the Declaration of Independence can be found in the Journals of the Continental Congress on the following dates in 1776:
June 7 - Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution urging Congress to declare independence from Great Britain.
June 11 - Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston were appointed to a committee to draft a declaration of independence.
June 28 - A fair copy of the committee draft of the Declaration of Independence was read in Congress.
July 1-4 - Congress debated and revised the Declaration of Independence.
July 2 - Congress declared independence by adopting the Lee Resolution.
July 4 - Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
July 4 - Congress ordered that the Declaration of Independence be printed (Dunlap Broadsides).
July 19 - Congress ordered the Declaration of Independence engrossed (officially inscribed) and signed by members.
August 2 - The engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence was signed by most of the delegates. Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton all signed on a later date
(The Library of Congress)

The following paragraphs are the better known section from the start of the Declaration:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr, Thomas Lynch, Jr, Arthur Middleton
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
(, Inc.)

Samuel Huntington
1st President of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781

Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania
2nd President of the United States in Congress Assembled
July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781
by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1797
Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park
Author Charles Willson Peale
From Wikipedia

Thomas Mifflin
5th President of the United States in Congress Assembled
November 3, 1783 to June 3, 1784

Henry Laurens
One of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Jay
One of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Francis Hopkinson
One of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Have you ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? This is the price they paid:
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.
These men signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor!
What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of "undaunted resolution" was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. was returning from Philadelphia to become Governor of Virginia and joined General Washington just outside of Yorktown. He then noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters, but that the patriot's were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his own beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction, and the soldiers replied, "Out of respect to you, Sir." Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepping forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis's Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis's son would later die in British captivity, also.
"Honest John" Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his children vanished and his farm destroyed. Rebuilding proved too be too great a task. A few weeks later, by the spring of 1779, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
New Jersey's Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.
William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only "undaunted resolution" in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.
Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris' sons fought the British.
When the British seized the New York houses of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.
Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolin tight. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward's plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.
Among the first to sign had been John Hancock, who wrote in big, bold script so George III "could read my name without spectacles and could now double his reward for 500 pounds for my head." If the cause of the revolution commands it, roared Hancock, "Burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar!"
Here were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the America revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Koko Smith said at
"I strongly believe that the Declaration of Independence is an excellent example of good public relations. As claimed by The Public Relations Society of America in 1988; “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” With this definition, I can correctly state that the Declaration was an effective Public Relations document.
First of all, was Jefferson not trying to convince colonists who did not want a rebellion to rebel? He deliberately pointed out each flaw of King George. Any colonist reading or hearing the Declaration would start to think about what it says and what the king was doing. Is it true, that what Jefferson wrote would make you doubt King George even for a few minutes? Is it not also true, that everything Jefferson wrote in the grievances was perfectly accurate? Finally, was it true, that in every word of this document, Jefferson was attempting to provoke the colonists against the king so they would rebel?
The Declaration was also written to raise the moral of the colonial army, who had been fighting the British for over a year already. This document gave the army a new hope so they kept fighting for freedom. I think that if we had not sent out the Declaration of Independence, we would have given up and surrendered to the British. If we had surrendered to the British, who knows how long it would have taken for another revolution, or if we would ever have a chance to try again? If we had surrendered, the British would have made sure we could not make any weapons.
The Declaration was not just to raise moral and provoke colonists, though. It was also aimed at other countries, so they might try to help the colonies. It also helped that since most of the countries they wanted help from were monarchies, that they aimed the blame at King George himself, and not kings and queens in general. If they had aimed it at kings and queens, they probably would have gotten no help and had to surrender.
With a passion, I still protect that the Declaration of Independence is an example of good public relations. With its trying to provoke the colonists into a revolution, raise moral, and grab the attention of other colonies, how could you disagree? The Declaration is, and always will be, a document of forceful public relations."

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