On July 4, 1776, not even a month after the U.S. Army was formed, the thirteen colonies proclaimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Lee’s words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed, but a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting t o the world the colonies’ case for independence. Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.
On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the ‘Lee Resolution’ for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence followed, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that he signed his name “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”
Happy Independence Day!