The True Date of America’s Declaration of Independence: Fact, Fiction, Myth
July 2, 2011

Signatures Came on July 2, 1776

Declaration Not Signed By Most Everyone Until August 2, 1776 and Some Later

On This Date in History: 235 years ago, a group of 56 men faced the gallows for what they contemplated doing or rather what they had already done. You see, the Declaration of Independence was actually voted on by members of the Continental Congress and approved on July 2, 1776.   You see, it was the formal adoption of the document with a good clean copy that took place on July 4, 1776 and it wasn’t signed by most of the delegates for another month.   It was thought that the document would long be celebrated but at least on of the Founding Fathers contemplated that the actual date of approval would be the one noted in history, not the one associated  with formality.  John Adams wrote to his wife that “The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance.” That letter wasn’t published until the 19th century and by that time the Fourth had become the traditional Independence Day. What happened on July 4 was an approval by the delegates of the final version of the document. The final version was not printed on parchment until July 19 and it wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776 by but 50 delegates. The other six got around to it later.

Did the Delegates Need a Final Bit of Persuasion Before Signing What Amounted to Their Death Warrants?

Someone may have been the catalyst to their moving forward and signing a document that would change world history. No one knows who that someone was but, he gave a speech that roused the emotions of the delegates in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Here is the text of what has become known as The Speech of the Unknown. It is said that this “unknown patriot” said in part, “Sign! if the next moment the gibbet’s rope is round your neck! Sign! if the next moment this hall rings with the echo of the falling axe! Sign! By all your hopes in life or death, as husbands–-as fathers–-as men–-sign your names to the Parchment or be accursed forever!” Sounds pretty good. But is it too good? The text of the speech is quite detailed, even accounting for applause. And the description of the “unknown patriot” is quite compelling, detailed and believeable. However, The Jefferson Encyclopedia says there is no evidence exists to support the story of the Speech of the Unknown. They claim the story of the “unknown patriot” was simply part of a work of historical fiction in 1847 by George Lippard: Washington and His Generals; Or, Legends of the Revolution. As evidence, it cites the American National Biography when it claimed that Lippard “wrote many semifanciful ‘legends’ of American history, mythologizing the founding fathers and retelling key moments of the American Revolution so vividly that several of the legends (most famously the one describing the ringing of the Liberty Bell on 4 July 1776) [2] became part of American folklore.”

Manly P. Hall Believed the Story of the Speech of the Unknown

However, Ronald Reagan and 20th century philosopher Manly P. Hall both made references to the unknown speech with both men claiming that the evidence lies in Thomas Jefferson’s records. Yet, the Jefferson Encyclopedia claims no such evidence exists in Jefferson’s writings. I certainly don’t know the truth, but I can say that I once had a published work (Ohio Valley History, 8 (Fall 2008), 40–61.) that uncovered much new material relating to Louisville. No scholars previously had ever come across the material. The reason was that most studies of Louisville used The 1896 Memorial History of Louisville and the editor of that book included only material that they wanted future Louisvillians to know. They skillfully made no mention of the decade long and successful Industrial Exposition but had an entire chapter devoted to the successful 5-year Southern Exposition. They also made no mention of the 63rd Birthday of Ulysses S. Grant even though it was nationally significant enough to find its way on a plaque at Grant’s Tomb. What I am saying is the the folks at the Jefferson Encyclopedia have no evidence that the speech took place, yet they have no evidence that it did not take place either. When one read’s the text of the speech put forth by Lippard, it is possible that Lippard made it up since he was considered a genius and an eloquent speaker. But, the detail makes it hard to believe that he was that creative and it certainly would indicate that Lippard would have a vivid imagination to match his “genius” talent.

Adams, Franklin and Jefferson collaborated on the Declaration of Independence But Jefferson Had the Mightiest Pen

In any event, the delegates really voted in favor of the declaration on this date in 1776. (see Second of July?) Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Jefferson was not the sole contributor to the Declaration of Independence. He was part of a committee consisting of Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin (the committee of five) whose task it was to come up with a document for the Continental Congress to approve. They knew that the Declaration of Independence could be a historically significant document and so Adams and Franklin agreed that Jefferson was a much more gifted writer; Jefferson was thus given the job of putting their ideas to paper. The writer of the declaration, Thomas Jefferson was reluctant. John Adams had to convince him giving him three reasons:

“You are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of business”

” I(Adams) am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise.”

“You can write ten times better than I can.”

Jefferson responded, “if you are decided, then I will do as well as I can.”

John Locke's Ideas Were Foundation of Declaration of Independence

The beauty of the document resides in Jefferson’s style and structure more so than the substance because the ideas in the document were not new. The first part was a reformation of the contract theory of John Locke, a 17th Century British philosopher, which generally was that governments are created to protect the rights of life, liberty and property. Jefferson jazzed it up by exchanging “property” with “the pursuit of happiness.” The second part then laid out the crimes of King George in violating the “contract” with the colonies and he had therefore forfeited his claim on their loyalty. Initially, there was a middle section that condemned King George for his introduction of slavery in the colonies, but that section was removed as it was surmised the southern colonies would never sign such a document. Hence, they kicked the can when it came to the slavery issue and the Congress would follow suit into the mid 19th century when it finally came to a head in the form of a bloody Civil War.

Was Adams Foot on Jefferson's Deliberate of a Matter of Expediency?

In 1817, John Trumbull painted the famous portrait of the signers of the Declaration. He hadn’t been there on July 4, 1776 but he did make sketches of many of the individuals and checked out the room so there is still some accuracy. One funny thing he did was to have John Adams stepping on Thomas Jefferson’s foot. Jefferson and Adams became fast friends but were political rivals. Both died on July 4, 1826 exactly 50 years to the day of the official presentation of the Declaration of Independence. They were the only two signers of the declaration to become president. It is said that, on his deathbed, Adams said “Jefferson survives” or “Jefferson lives” not knowing that Tom had died a few hours earlier. I suppose it’s possible that Trumbull’s placement of Adams’ foot on the top of Jefferson’s was a statement of support for Adams who had been at odds over many issues with Jefferson. It just so happens that Trumbull had painted Adams’ portrait.

Trumbull Left a Few Signers Out and Added Imposters

However, I found one source that claims that the feet are merely close together and the claim of Adams stepping on his foot are unfounded. The University of Baltimore suggests that it was merely the artist’s problem with positioning of the founding fathers and points out that later engravings had the feet repositioned. To the right is a montage of all of the signers that you can click on. Trumbull for some reason left 14 of the signers out of the portrait but did manage to put 5 other men in the picture that were not signers. I have yet to find out why he did that…perhaps he was making another statement or he did not know what they looked like.

And the rest they say, is history. King George though had no idea of what was happening. Back in England, he wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776 that “nothing of importance happened today.” Oh…the folly of Kings. Or was it? Some say this too is a bit of American mythology. But, in this case, I say we go along with the idea brought forth by Maxwell Scott to Ransom Stoddard in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. “

Fact, Fiction and Myth Surround the Declaration of Independence
July 4, 2010

Signatures Came on July 2, 1776

Declaration Not Signed By Most Everyone Until August 2, 1776 and Some Later

On This Date in History:  234 years ago, a group of 56 men faced the gallows for what they contemplated doing or rather what they had already done.  You see, the Declaration of Independence was actually voted on by members of the Continental Congress and approved on July 2, 1776.  The formal adoption with a good clean copy took place on this date in 1776.  John Adams wrote to his wife that “The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance.” That letter wasn’t published until the 19th century and by that time the Fourth had become the traditional Independence Day. What happened on July 4 was an approval by the delegates of the final version of the document. The final version was not printed on parchment until July 19 and it wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776 by but 50 delegates. The other six got around to it later.

Did the Delegates Need a Final Bit of Persuasion Before Signing What Amounted to Their Death Warrants?

Someone may have been the catalyst to their moving forward and signing a document that would change world history. No one knows who that someone was but, he gave a speech that roused the emotions of the delegates in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Here is the text of what has become known as The Speech of the Unknown.   It is said that this “unknown patriot” said in part, “Sign! if the next moment the gibbet’s rope is round your neck! Sign! if the next moment this hall rings with the echo of the falling axe! Sign!   By all your hopes in life or death, as husbands–-as fathers–-as men–-sign your names to the Parchment or be accursed forever!”   Sounds pretty good.  But is it too good?   The text of the speech is quite detailed, even accounting for applause.  And the description of the “unknown patriot” is quite compelling, detailed and believeable.  However,  The Jefferson Encyclopedia says there is no evidence exists to support the story of the Speech of the Unknown.  They claim the story of the “unknown patriot” was simply part of a work of historical fiction in 1847 by George Lippard:  Washington and His Generals; Or, Legends of the Revolution.  As evidence, it cites the American National Biography  when it claimed that Lippard “wrote many semifanciful ‘legends’ of American history, mythologizing the founding fathers and retelling key moments of the American Revolution so vividly that several of the legends (most famously the one describing the ringing of the Liberty Bell on 4 July 1776) [2] became part of American folklore.” 

Manly P. Hall Believed the Story of the Speech of the Unknown

However, Ronald Reagan and 20th century philosopher Manly P. Hall both made references to the unknown speech with both men claiming that the evidence lies in Thomas Jefferson’s records.  Yet, the Jefferson Encyclopedia claims no such evidence exists in Jefferson’s writings.  I certainly don’t know the truth, but I can say that I once had a published work (Ohio Valley History, 8 (Fall 2008), 40–61.) that uncovered much new material relating to Louisville.  No scholars previously had ever come across the material.  The reason was that most studies of Louisville used The 1896 Memorial History of Louisville and the editor of that book included only material that they wanted future Louisvillians to know.  They skillfully made no mention of the decade long and successful Industrial Exposition but had an entire chapter devoted to the successful 5-year Southern Exposition.  They also made no mention of the 63rd Birthday of Ulysses S. Grant even though it was nationally significant enough to find its way on a plaque at Grant’s Tomb.  What I am saying is the the folks at the Jefferson Encyclopedia have no evidence that the speech took place, yet  they have no evidence that it did not take place either.  When one read’s the text of the speech put forth by Lippard, it is possible that Lippard made it up since he was considered a genius and an eloquent speaker.  But, the detail makes it hard to believe that he was that creative and it certainly would indicate that Lippard would have a vivid imagination to match his “genius” talent.

Adams, Franklin and Jefferson collaborated on the Declaration of Independence But Jefferson Had the Mightiest Pen

In any event, the delegates really voted in favor of the declaration on July 2, 1776. (see Second of July?)   Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Jefferson was not the sole contributor to the Declaration of Independence.  He was part of a committee consisting of Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin (the committee of five) whose task it was to come up with a document for the Continental Congress to approve.   They knew that the Declaration of Independence could be a historically significant document and so Adams and Franklin agreed that Jefferson was a much more gifted writer; Jefferson was thus given the job of putting their ideas to paper.   The writer of the declaration, Thomas Jefferson was reluctant. John Adams had to convince him giving him three reasons:

“You are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of business”

” I(Adams) am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise.”

“You can write ten times better than I can.”

Jefferson responded, “if you are decided, then I will do as well as I can.”

John Locke's Ideas Were Foundation of Declaration of Independence

The beauty of the document resides in Jefferson’s style and structure more so than the substance because the ideas in the document were not new.  The first part was a reformation of the contract theory of John Locke, a 17th Century British philosopher, which generally was that governments are created to protect the rights of life, liberty and property.  Jefferson jazzed it up by exchanging “property” with “the pursuit of happiness.”   The second part then laid out the crimes of King George in violating the “contract” with the colonies and he had therefore forfeited his claim on their loyalty.  Initially, there was a middle section that condemned King George for his introduction of slavery in the colonies, but that section was removed as it was surmised the southern colonies would never sign such a document.  Hence,  they kicked the can when it came to the slavery issue and the Congress would follow suit into the mid 19th century when it finally came to a head in the form of a bloody Civil War.

Was Adams Foot on Jefferson's Deliberate of a Matter of Expediency?

In 1817, John Trumbull painted the famous portrait of the signers of the Declaration. He hadn’t been there on July 4, 1776 but he did make sketches of many of the individuals and checked out the room so there is still some accuracy. One funny thing he did was to have John Adams stepping on Thomas Jefferson’s foot. Jefferson and Adams became fast friends but were political rivals. Both died on this date in 1826 exactly 50 years to the day of the official presentation of the Declaration of Independence. They were the only two signers of the declaration to become president. It is said that, on his deathbed, Adams said “Jefferson survives” or “Jefferson lives” not knowing that Tom had died a few hours earlier. I suppose it’s possible that Trumbull’s placement of Adams’ foot on the top of Jefferson’s was a statement of support for Adams who had been at odds over many issues with Jefferson. It just so happens that Trumbull had painted Adams’ portrait.

Trumbull Left a Few Signers Out and Added Imposters

However, I found one source that claims that the feet are merely close together and the claim of Adams stepping on his foot are unfounded.   The University of Baltimore suggests that it was merely the artist’s problem with positioning of the founding fathers and points out that later engravings had the feet repositioned.   To the right is a  montage of all of the signers that you can click on. Trumbull for some reason left 14 of the signers out of the portrait but did manage to put 5 other men in the picture that were not signers. I have yet to find out why he did that…perhaps he was making another statement or he did not know what they looked like.

And the rest they say, is history. King George though had no idea of what was happening.  Back in England, he wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776 that “nothing of importance happened today.”   Oh…the folly of Kings.  Or was it?  Some say this too is a bit of American mythology.  But, in this case, I say we go along with the idea brought forth by Maxwell Scott to Ransom Stoddard in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:  “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. ”

Weather Bottom Line:  I’ve heard two different weather people on two different stations say that the humidity will not be “that bad” on Sunday.  It may not be as bad as early last week, but it will be a bit difficult especially in comparison to what we had to conclude the week.  Temperatures will be in the low to mid 90’s through at least the middle of the week and rain chances will be slim and none.

George Washington Preferred Cincinnatus Over King George
May 22, 2010

General Washington Would Not Be King!

Treaty of Paris-From L to R: John Jay, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Henry Laurens, William T. Franklin...the rest were too Chicken to Show up

On this date in History:  In 1782, there was some chaos in the new nation.  There was a shortage of funds to pay foreign debts and Congress was arguing about what to do.  Beyond that, while the British had surrendered at Yorktown, there was no peace treaty with the mother country and many thousands of Royal troops remained in the colonies.  Skirmishes and small battles continued on part of the frontier.  In general, the major fighting for the colonies was over but true independence would not come until November 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris

Adams, Franklin and Jefferson collaborated on the Declaration of Independence But Jefferson Had the Mightiest Pen

Now, most of leaders in the colonial independence movement were from the wealthy classes and were, for lack of a better word, the elites.  Many of the founders were well educated in a classical sense and were some of the wealthiest members of society.  John Hancock was a merchant who was recognized by many historians as the richest of all those in America at the time.  General George Washington was not rolling in cash but the value of his land holdings put his net worth near the top of the list.  Thomas Jefferson enjoyed some financial success but his business decisions were not always sound.  But, his knowledge of historical ideas and his ability to master the language gave him a tremendous ability to express ideas and ideals.  John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson were charged with writing an independence declaration.  Adams and Franklin pushed Jefferson to actually pen the document because they acknowledged his greater written skills.  The ideals put forth on the Declaration of Independence were not new ideas as they had been espoused in the past, most notably by John Locke.  But, it was the way that Jefferson expressd those ideals that makes the document so remarkable.  Jefferson wrote  that “Bacon, Locke and Newton … I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences.”  

George Washington considered himself a planter much along the lines of the Roman tradition of Cincinnatus.  Early in the Roman empire, the Senate ruled Rome.  In a time of war, land holders were called to come and form an army to defend the empire.  In such a time of strife, a dictator was appointed and given temporary powers to rule until the end of the conflict.  Cincinnatus was called to duty in 458 BC and successfully led the defense of Rome.  When the conflict was over,  he resigned his position and returned to his farm.  This was the Roman tradition until around the time of Julius Caesar, who never relinquished the lucrative dictator position.  When several senators got together and murdered him, assassination was introduced into the world of politics.  When Augustus came to power, he remained as dictator but returned much of the rule of Rome to the Senate in the tradition of Cincinnatus while he controled the army on the frontier of the empire.  Augustus preferred to be called “principate” or “first citizen” rather than Caesar.    While Jefferson was greatly influenced by Locke, Washington’s demeanor was patterned after Cincinnatus.   

General Washington Resigning His Commission to Congress. He Voluntarily Surrendered Absolute Power, Not Once, But Twice. The Definition of the man, his character and integrity.

In the atmosphere of an unsettled and uncertain condition that prevailed in the colonies between Yorktown in October 1781 and the Treaty of Paris in 1783,  a proposal arose from officers in the army to settle the situation by proclaiming George Washington as King George I.  He had the ability to seize absolute power since he was the well respected leader of the entire Continental Army.  And many colonists put their Faith in his hands.  Yet,  On This Date in 1782, General George Washington refused to become king when he quickly dispatched such notions, writing from his headquarters in Newburgh, NY  that no such occurrence in the war gave him ”…more painful sensations…” than such talk.  He said that viewed such expressions with “abhorrence and reprehend with severity.”   The officer who had written the proposal to the general was admonished when Washington concluded, “if you have any regard for your country, concern for yourself or  posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your mind and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else, a sentiment of the like nature. ”    The word of General Washington was formidable, thus saving the Democracy before it even really got started. The Constitution was adopted in 1787 and the General became the first President in 1789.  Eight years later, for a second time,  General Washington voluntarily gave up power when he refused to be nominated for a third term even though he had been elected twice as President by a unanimous vote of the electoral college.  Not once, but twice, did General Washington refuse the temptation of absolute power.  In the tradition of Cincinnatus, he returned to his farm where he died in 1799. 

Augustus Known as Principate; Washington as Father

While we do not refer to Washington as “first citizen” like Caesar Augustus, he is commonly referred to as the “Father of the Country.”  A 1788 settlement along the Ohio River became a village in 1802 and took the name of Cincinnati in honor of George Washington, though some accounts say that the moniker was derived from The Society of the Cincinnati .  Nevertheless, the Society of the Cincinnati also was formed by Revolutionary War soldiers who wished to promote the virtues of Cincinnatus.  By extension, those were also the  virtues espoused by General Washington who served as the first President General of the Society of Cincinnatus.  And the nation has largely followed the tradition of Cincinnatus as demonstrated by Washington.   The United States has been involved in a number of armed conflicts but, more often than not, does not control territories following the end of hostilities.  More to the point, politicians followed the tradition of Washington and limited themselves to just two terms in office, until Franklin D. Roosevelt broke the tradition by being elected to four consecutive terms in office.  Shortly thereafter, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified making the tradition of Washington the law of the land: no one can serve for more than two terms as President of the United States.

From Your Son, Dopey

From Your Son, Dopey

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

Many of us have our own form of Cincinnatus or George Washington who has influenced their life.  On this date a long long time ago, Robert B. Symon, Sr. was introduced to the world. And the world has been a better place for it. I’m hoping to one day live up to the old man but I haven’t quite gotten there. When I was a kid and he helped coach my football or baseball teams. the other guys on the team always told me that my dad was their favorite coach. They said he was nice. Today, I realize that is true. I think we all wish that we could be a person whom about people would say, “you know, I’m a better person for having known him” or “I’m just a little happier for having known him.”  My dad is one of the few people I know in life that I think that is the case. Come to think of it, Snow White is too. One would think that if I am surrounded and influenced by such people, some of it would rub off on me. Well, there’s always tomorrow.

Weather Bottom Line:  We had a storm that produced some funnel clouds and excitement on Friday evening.   There were also some wind damage reported in a few spots in Southern Indiana and large hail reports in Crawford, Franklin and Anderson counties in Indiana and Kentucky.   Rainfall totals were varied with some places getting around a half inch of rain while others about 3 times that in a short period of time.  It’s all over with now and look for temperatures in the mid to perhaps upper 80’s for the week ahead with rain chances being slim and none.