I find historical events related to the Declaration of Independence interesting. They occurred at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776 and during the American Revolutionary War.
The Lee Resolution (known as the Resolution of Independence), put forth on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, is considered the earliest text proclaiming the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from England. Congress first asked Lee to draft a declaration of independence, but he declined. He said he was already involved with drafting the Articles of Confederation and caring for a sick wife.
So the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson would be its principal author on the committee. Other committee members included Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Robert Livingston. Coincidentally, Jefferson said no when asked to write the committee’s draft but eventually relented to John Adam’s persistence.
John Hancock was the first and only one to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Other delegates signed it by August 2. Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire was the last to sign on November 4.
On July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, two members of the drafting committee, who also served as US Presidents, died within five hours of each other: John Adams, our second president, and Thomas Jefferson, our third president.
Independence Came at a High Cost
Here are diary passages of American Colonial soldiers. Private Joseph Martin wrote one of the most grizzly and gripping passages I read. I grew up in a northern climate with snow, ice, and cold temperatures. I can’t imagine how anyone suffered those conditions marching barefoot because they lacked footwear. Some soldiers wrapped rags around their feet. Human skin splits and bleeds when exposed to ice and frigid cold for long.
Almost every one has heard of the soldiers of the Revolution being tracked by the blood of their feet on the frozen ground. This is literally true, and the thousandth part of their sufferings has not, nor ever will be told. —Diary of Private Joseph Plumb Martin
I am Sick – discontented – and out of humour. Poor food – hard lodging – Cold Weather – fatigue – Nasty Cloaths – nasty Cookery – Vomit half my time – smoak’d out my senses – the Devil’s in’t – I can’t Endure it – Why are we sent here to starve and Freeze. — Albigence Waldo, Diary of a Surgeon at Valley Forge 1777
Some Continental Army soldiers’ bare and bandaged feet left blood trails on the cold ground at Valley Forge in December 1777. General William Alexander reported the troops’ condition days before they arrived at Valley Forge this way:
“A long fatiguing Campaign already wears them out, a Considerable part of them [are] in the Hospitals, …one half of those in Camp, are almost naked, and are walking barefooted on the Ice or frozen Ground.”
As you eat your grilled hot dog or hamburger, as you stand watching a parade, or sit at your lake cabin comfortably with family and friends, or arch your neck to watch fireworks explode in the sky, please reflect for a moment on the sacrifices that an earlier generation made for us.
Happy Fourth of July! Or “Independence Day,” as John Adams called it.
It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. —John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams