On June 11, 1776, in anticipation of the impending vote for independence
from Great Britain, the Continental Congress appointed five men — Thomas
Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston
— to write a declaration that would make clear to people everywhere why
this break from Great Britain was both necessary and inevitable.
The committee then appointed Jefferson to draft a statement. Jefferson
produced a "fair copy" of his draft declaration, which became the
basic text of his "original Rough draught." The text was first
submitted to Adams, then Franklin, and finally to the other two members of the
committee. Before the committee submitted the declaration to Congress on June
28, they made forty-seven emendations to the document. During the ensuing
congressional debates of July 1-4, 1776, Congress adopted thirty-nine further
revisions to the committee draft.
The four-page "Rough draught" illustrates the numerous additions,
deletions, and corrections made at each step along the way. Although most of
these alterations are in Jefferson's own distinctive hand — he later
indicated the changes he believed to have been made by Adams and Franklin
— he opposed many of the revisions made to his original composition.
Late in life Jefferson endorsed this document: "Independence.
Declaration of original Rough draught."
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