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Primary Documents in American History

Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776, a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.
Broadside.
In Congress, July 4, 1776, a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.
Philadelphia: John Dunlap,
July 4, 1776.
Broadside Collection,
Rare Book and
Special Collections Division
.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), approved the Declaration of Independence, severing the colonies' ties to the British Crown.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The text of the Declaration of Independence appears in the Journals of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

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.

A printed copy of the final version of the Declaration of Independence is available in the United States Statutes at Large and Elliot's Debates.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789

In 1777, Mary Katherine Goddard printed the first official copy of the Declaration of Independence with the names of the signers attached.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

Includes his General Orders for July 9, 1776 announcing the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Army in New York. Also contains Washington's printed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Search this collection to find additional documents related to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.

The James Madison Papers

Contains Thomas Jefferson's notes on debates in the Continental Congress from 1776, including Jefferson's copy of the Declaration of Independence as amended by Congress.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress

Includes Jefferson's Notes on Debates and Proceedings on Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation, Continental Congress, June 7, 1776. A transcription of the Notes on Debates and Proceedings can be found in Jefferson's Autobiography Draft Fragment, January 6 through July 27.

Search this collection to find additional papers related to the Declaration of Independence, including Jefferson's rough draft.

Words and Deeds in American History

On July 6, 1776, John Hancock sent George Washington a copy of the resolution concerning the reading of the Declaration of Independence to the Revolutionary army.

America's Library

Meet Amazing Americans: Thomas Jefferson - The Declaration of Independence

Exhibitions

American Treasures of the Library of Congress - Declaration of Independence

This online exhibition contains Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration, with emendations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Also includes a fragment of an early draft of the document, a letter to Roger Weightman with Jefferson's reflections on the Declaration, Jefferson's draft of the Virginia Constitution, and an excerpt from Henry Home, Lord Kames' Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion regarding the pursuit of happiness.

Creating the United States

This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. The exhibition includes a section on creating the Declaration of Independence.

Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents

This exhibition includes a timeline of events related to the Declaration and a detailed essay on the drafting of the documents. Also contains images of the Dunlap Broadside and a number of prints portraying the debating and signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Today in History

April 12, 1776

The Provincial Congress of North Carolina authorized its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence.

July 4, 1776

The Declaration of Independence was enacted on July 4, 1776.

Webcasts

Publishing the Declaration of Independence

Robin Shields discusses the American Declaration of Independence, focusing on its distribution through early American newspapers. Fifteen newspapers containing the Declaration from the Library of Congress' Serial and Government Publication Division's American newspaper collection are profiled. Shields highlights the importance of newspapers for the success of the American Revolution and the influence newspaper printers had on the independence movement.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Charters of Freedom, Declaration of Independence, National Archives and Records Administration

Declaration of Independence, USHistory.org

Our Documents, Declaration of Independence, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Armitage, David. The Declaration of Independence: A Global History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Boyd, Julian P. The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text. Rev. ed. Charlottesville: International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello in association with the Library of Congress, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Dupont, Christian Y., and Peter S. Onuf, eds. Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America’s Founding Document. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Library, 2008. [Catalog Record]

Ferris, Robert G., ed. Signers of the Declaration: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: United States Department. of the Interior, National Park Service, 1975. [Catalog Record] [Full Text] External Link

Gerber, Scott Douglas, ed. The Declaration of Independence: Origins and Impact. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Fradin, Dennis B. The Signers: The Fifty-Six Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence. New York: Walker, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Freedman, Russell. Give Me Liberty!: The Story of the Declaration of Independence. New York: Holiday House, 2000. [Catalog Record]

Gragg, Rod. The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America’s Founding Document and the Men Who Created It. Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Graves, Kerry A. The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America's Founding Document. Philadelphia: Chelsea Clubhouse, 2004. [Catalog Record]

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  November 6, 2014
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