The New Student's Reference Work/Declaration of Independence

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Dec'lara'tion of Independence. Not till after the battle of Bunker Hill and the appointment of Washington as commander-in-chief of all the colonial forces, was the separation of the colonies from Great Britain generally and seriously considered, though North Carolina in May, 1775, had at the famous Mecklenburg convention cut itself off from all allegiance to the mother-country. In May of 1776 Washington wrote from the head of the army, then at New York: “A reconciliation with Great Britain is impossible. When I took command of the army, I abhorred the idea of independence; but I am now fully satisfied that nothing else will save us.” Before this, Massachusetts, followed by South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina, had instructed its delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence. In May, Virginia, followed by New Hampshire, New Jersey and Maryland, sent similar instructions to its delegates. On June 7 Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, moved a resolution in Congress that “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states and that a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation.” This resolution was adopted on June 11. Two committees were appointed under it, one to prepare a declaration of independence and the other to prepare articles of union or confederation. The committee to prepare the Declaration of Independence consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. They reported on June 28, but a delay was caused by the delegates from New York and Pennsvlvania not having received their instructions. It was passed on July 4, 1776, by the votes of all the colonies, each colony having one vote. The sessions of the Continental Congress were held and the Declaration signed in the old Pennsylvania state-house, known afterward as Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Here still hangs the cracked and broken Liberty Bell which, after the first reading of the Declaration, was rung for over two hours, with the firing of cannon and the beating of drums. Twenty-three years before, this bell had been cast with the prophetic words inscribed on it: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.”