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July 3, 1776

July 3, 1776

A storm, the previous day, had broken a spell of humid days. It was mercifully cooler.

Although not so much indoors, where the Second Continental Congress was meeting in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to put the finishing touches on the language of the drafted declaration.

There had been a big celebration at City Tavern last night in honor of Mr. Adams and independence, so some of the delegates were a bit bleary eyed.

And some were still clutching Tuesday’s July 2nd Pennsylvania Evening Post, which published the statement: “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”

Jefferson’s draft has already undergone some revisions by the committee of five so that a “fair” copy was now in the hands of Congress.

Over the last few days, there had already been some changes. This was Jefferson’s original:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness….

I think the editing committee did their job:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seated besides Benjamin Franklin, the man from Monticello sat in silence as new changes were being made to the document; over a quarter of what Jefferson had written was cut.

However, it was no time to quibble.

British troops have landed on Staten Island. General Washington, severely outnumbered, was preparing his men as well as he could under the circumstances.

From a letter that John Adams wrote to his beloved Abigail dated this day:

“You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph.”

The clock was ticking. Much was ahead, but the foundation was set.

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