While most people are aware that the Declaration of Independence is the document in which the United States of America officially declared its independence from England, a number of key facts about it are not as widely known. Improve your knowledge of the country's founding by discovering 12 essential Declaration of Independence facts.
12 Declaration of Independence Facts Essential to Know
Richard Henry Lee Introduced It
While Thomas Jefferson is remembered as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, he is not the one who formally proposed the document to the Continental Congress. That was Richard Henry Lee. He introduced a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776 to declare independence from England.
Congress Assigned Jefferson to Write It
As a result of Lee's motion, the Continental Congress established a committee to draft what would later become the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was assigned to lead this committee. The document was not created solely by Jefferson. Other members of the committee participated, and it was also reviewed and adjusted by other members of the Continental Congress.
Jefferson's Inspiration for the Document
When drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson drew inspiration from John Locke, especially his contract theory of government. Jefferson also reviewed documents specific to his home colony of Virginia when writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. He looked back at his own draft of the preamble to Virginia's constitution for inspiration, as well as the Declaration of Rights that George Mason drafted for Virginia.
The Declaration Was Actually Signed in August
Since Independence Day is celebrated on July 4, it's not uncommon for people to mistakenly believe that the document was signed on that date in 1776. Even though the Declaration of Independence was, in fact, adopted on July 4, 1776, the signers didn't actually put pen to paper until nearly a month later. It was actually signed on August 2, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence Had 56 Signers
Most people can name a few of the well-known signers of the Declaration of Independence, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. These notable and often-discussed founding fathers were only a few of the representatives who signed this key document. A total of 56 people signed the document
Colony Representatives Signed the Declaration
The 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence did so as official representatives of the 13 colonies, serving in the Continental Congress. Each person represented a particular colony. All colonies had more than one representative who signed the document.
John Hancock Signed the Declaration of Independence First
John Hancock served as president of the Continental Congress. As such, he had the honor of being the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. The fact that the signature space was blank at the time he signed may be why his signature is so much larger than the signatures of the other signers.
It Was Distributed via Dunlap Broadsides
The first printed Declarations of Independence were printed by John Dunlap, who handled printing for the Continental Congress in his Philadelphia business. Once the document was adopted on July 4, the manuscript was delivered to Dunlap to be printed that evening. The next morning, an unknown number of copies were distributed by members of Congress. These copies are referred to as "Dunlap broadsides."
First Newspaper Publication of the Declaration
The full text of the Declaration of Independence was published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6. This was the first newspaper publication of the document, as well as the first known publication in a form other than the Dunlap broadsides.
Two Signers Went on to Become President
Two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence eventually became president. John Adams was elected to serve as the second president of the United States of America in 1796. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was elected to serve as the country's third president.
Placed in Fort Knox During World War II
The Declaration of Independence was taken to Fort Knox for safekeeping during World War II. It was taken to Fort Knox in 1941 and remained there before being returned to Washington, D.C. in 1944.
Displayed at the National Archives
The original Declaration of Independence document is on display at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C. where it has been housed since 1952. It is located in the museum's rotunda, along with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Numerous additional historically significant documents and items associated with early American history are housed in this museum.
Discover More About American History
If you've enjoyed learning these facts about the Declaration of Independence, take the time to learn more about American history. Start by exploring a selection of American symbols and what they stand for. You may also be interested in learning about examples of different kinds of democracy.