The Declaration of Independence was the most significant event of 1776. American colonists tried to resolve their differences with Britain. At last, all hope for reconciliation faded. A Continental Congress met in June 1776. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia offered a resolution to dissolve allegiance to the British crown.
After the resolution passed, the Congress appointed five men to draft a declaration of independence. Those five men were: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. This committee presented their draft on June 28.
Declaration of Independence Committee
On July 1, a committee considered the draft. After several amendments, nine states voted for independence. Maryland and Pennsylvania voted no. Then Congress debated the Declaration. Finally, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. The thirteen colonies declared they were free independent states.
John Hancock, the President of the Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Fifty-four other men signed the declaration on August 2, 1776. Finally, Matthew Thornton was the last delegate to sign the declaration in November.
What happened to the signers?
A popular essay outlined the fates of the signers, but many statements are inaccurate. The following are the facts from Snopes:
- Tories arrested and jailed Richard Stockton in New York City.
- The British captured George Walton, Thomas Heyward Jr, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge. They became prisoners of war. The British later exchanged them for British soldiers captured in war.
- British soldiers ransacked and burned the homes of twelve of the signers.
- The British captured and jailed two sons of Abraham Clark.
- The British killed the eldest son of John Witherspoon.
- Nine signers died during the Revolutionary War.
- Carter Braxton, a wealthy trader, lost his fortune due to the War.
- The British destroyed Francis Lewis’ home and imprisoned his wife when he was in Philadelphia.
- Philip Livingston and Lewis Morris had their homes and livestock looted by the British.
So, who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence?
The stories of the fifty-six signers are interesting. Succeeding articles will relate their stories.