The Declaration as Text and Artifact
and Text of The Declaration of Independence at the National
Archives and Records Administration. You can find a different
set of scans at NARA's "American Originals" Exhibit
on Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, manuscript copy
From the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,
Declaration of Independence at Virtualology.com.
Provides information on those who signed the Declaration and on
the printers and others who prepared copies for dissemination.
Prelude to and Support for the Declaration
of Colonial Rights: Resolutions of the First Continental Congress,
October 14, 1774
A number of colonies adopted their own "declarations"
before the more well-known document was signed in Philadelphia
in July of 1766. Also, gatherings were held in a number of colonies
to write explicit instructions durectubg their representatives
to the Continental Congress to compose and sign a formal declaration.
Declaration of Rights is one example.
Origins and Meanings of the Declaration
of a Declaration: From the Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson,
His Account of the Circumstances Leading to the Declaration of
Jefferson, July 27, 1821, Autobiography Draft Fragment, January
6 through July 27 (digitized image -- a transcription
is also available) at American
from Jefferson's Autobiography on the Events Leading to the Signing
Account of Jefferson's role in drafting the Declaration
of Independence from B.L.
Rayner's Biography of Jefferson published eight years after
of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, in his
Autobiography Jefferson comments on the difference between
the original and final drafts of the Declaration.
Adams and the Declaration of Independence
Early America: The Declaration of Independence -- Offers comments
by Adams and Jefferson in the early 19th century on the Declaration;
aslo includes a graphic showing the Declaration as it appeared
in a contemporary newspaper.
Did the Declaration Declare? This website produced by Bedford/St.
Martin's Press to promote and supplement historian Joseph Ellis's
book of readings on the revoltuion offers a selection of intelligently
focused questions and relevant quotations from scholars that attempt
to answer the question, "What did the Declaration Declare?"
But Support for the Declaration Was Not Unanimous
Independence -- The Inside Story, a short essay by Matthew
Brent Pandel in The Early
The Declaration as a Work of Rhetoric
the Ideas of the Declaration of Independence still valid today?
at the Social Studies Help site provides a simple summary of the
organization of the Declaration and a simple commentary on its
audience and purpose.
Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence, by
Stephen E. Lucas
Offers a useful analysis of the Declaration as a work of rhetoric
(i.e. tool of persuasion).
Preview for Thomas Jefferson's "Declaration of Independence"
at Leah Ceccarelli's course site for American Public Address.
This page provides a model for assessing the Declaration as a
work of rhetoric.
Adams and the Declaration
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Oratory -- A New York Times article
explaining Jay Fliegelman's vsion of the Declaration as a text
intended to be presented in manuscript, print, and speech in order
to unite Americans.
An Excerpt from Sentimental Democracy, by Andrew Burnstein
(to read an excerpt from the first chapter online, go the the
page posted by his publishers, Farrar,
Strauss, and Giroux):
As Jay Fliegelman has effectively argued, the Declaration
of Independence was intended to be read aloud as well as in
its printed form. Print culture in 1776 was secure in its authority,
yet Jefferson aimed to preserve the special character of the
spoken voice in his composition of a vigorous and passionate,
politically persuasive document. When one member of Parliament
denounced the Declaration as a "wretched" instrument
"drawn up with the view to captivate the people,"
John Wilkes, a defender of American rights, rose to laud Jefferson's
composition: "The polished periods [sentences], the harmonious
happy expressions, with all the grace, case and elegance of
a beautiful diction, which we chiefly admire, captivate the
people of America very little; but manly, nervous [vigorous]
sense, they relish even in the most awkward and uncouth language.
Whatever composition produces the effect you intend in the most
forcible manner is, in my opinion, the best." Jefferson
may not have seen his technique as Wilkes did, but he clearly
aimed to mix style and sentiment in a way that affected listeners
as well as readers. He was in effect announcing to the world
a new oratorical ideal that combined masculine sentiment and
a kind of theater. To "captivate," in the sense almost
of ensnaring or bewitching (as the member of Parliament intended
to convey), was not the effect of the Declaration; rather, Americans
were responding to language that contained sensory power, that
coursed through the nervous system and, in fact, made "sense."
Later Disagreement Between Jefferson and Adams Concerning the
History of the Drafting
I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory
with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery,
which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer
to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were
other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had
drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant.
I thought this too personal; for I never believed George to
be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed
him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic,
and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression
too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and
solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect
it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it
out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that
I made or suggested a single alteration.
"We reported it to the committee of five. It was read,
and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticised any
thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the
instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson's handwriting,
as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it,
as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best
of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if anything in it
was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not
been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic
against negro slavery."-- John Adams to Timothy Pickering,
Aug. 22, 1822
To this Jefferson replied:
"You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickering's fourth of
July observations on the Declaration of Independence. If his
principles and prejudices, personal and political, gave us no
reason to doubt whether he had truly quoted the information
he alleges to have received from Mr. Adams, I should then say,
that in some of the particulars, Mr. Adams' memory has led him
into unquestionable error. At the age of eighty-eight, and forty-seven
years after the transactions of Independence, this is not wonderful.
Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on the small advantage of
that difference only, venture to oppose my memory to his, were
it not supported by written notes, taken by myself self at the
moment and on the spot. He says 'the committee of five, to wit,
Doctor Franklin, Sherman, Livingston and ourselves, met, discussed
the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the draught;
that we, as a sub-committee, met, and after the urgencies of
each on the other, I consented to undertake the task, that the
draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the
paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested
a single alteration.' Now these details are quite incorrect.
The committee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee
was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to
undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I
reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately to
Doctor Franklin and Mr. Adams, requesting their corrections
because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments
I wished most to have the benefit, before presenting it to the
committee: and you have seen the original paper now in my hands,
with the corrections of Doctor Franklin and Mr. Adams interlined
in their own handwritings. Their alterations were two or three
only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported
it to the committee, and from them unaltered, to Congress. This
personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he has
misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickering's
observations, and Mr. Adams' in addition, 'that it contained
no new ideas, that it is a common place compilation, its sentiments
hacknied in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained
in Otis' pamphlet,' may all be true. Of that I am not to be
the judge. Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke's
treatise on government. Otis' pamphlet I never saw, and whether
I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not
know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet
while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge
to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which
had ever been expressed before."-- Letter to J. Madison,
Aug. 30, 1823.]
from Notes on Jefferson Autobiography Draft Fragment in
The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes.
Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford,
available online courtesy of American
The Ongoing Life and Uses of the Declaration
Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,
Noah Webster, New Haven, 1802
Douglass's "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"
delivered July 5, 1852
of the Declaration, Calvin Coolidge, July 5, 1926: Speech
at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the One Hundred and Fiftieth
Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence
Sense of the Fourth of July, by Pauline Maier This essay
describe how the celebration of the fourth of July and the understanding
of the Delcaration evolved over the course of American history.
See Also on this Site:
Slavery in Early America: What the Founders
Wrote, Said, and Did