Ten Surprising Facts about Independence Day

By Jane Hampton Cook

1.  Thomas Jefferson was the “new guy” in town when he wrote the Declaration of Independence . Unlike most delegates,Jefferson had never attended the Continental Congress until 1776. John Adams picked this 30-year-old county boy for two reasons: Jefferson’s writing style was frank and full of flourishes and he was fromVirginia , a smart move uniting the South forNew England war.

2.  Debating the Declaration was a rush job. The Continental Congress was in such a hurry to seeJefferson ’s first draft, that they used his handwritten copy to debate, not waiting to get it printed as they had done with other documents.

3. Humor kept Thomas Jefferson calm. The three-day debate over the Declaration was so intense that Benjamin Franklin told an anguished Thomas Jefferson funny stories and jokes to keep him calm while Congress criticized his work.

4. King George III was a terrorist. The most famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” but the Declaration documents more than 25 “bad acts” by tyrant and terrorist King George III, such as kidnapping Americans and hiring foreigners to fight against them.

 5. They melted his royal likeness. Some patriots were so excited after the first public reading of the Declaration in Manhattan, that they pulled down a statue of King George III (at Broadway and the Bowling Green) on July 9, 1776, and melted “his royal likeness” into 42,000 musket balls—the first of many New York “fireworks” to come.

 6. The Declaration was not truly unanimous. Congress counted the votes by colonies not by delegates, with each state getting one vote. Hence, the Declaration was “unanimous” without every delegate supporting it.

 7. Signing the Declaration was the same as signing a death warrant. The Declaration’s signers  knew they had earned a spot on the King’s most-wanted list, prompting Benjamin Franklin to say, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

 8. The Declaration is why we have states and not colonies. Shortly after the Declaration, Samuel Adams found himself correcting his terminology in his letters, scratching out “colonies” and replacing them with “states.”

 9. Poor manners kept the war going. Not long after the Declaration, a British General sent George Washington a deal. But, the letter addressed Washington as an ordinary citizen and not as “His Excellency”—proper manners for recognizing a legitimate leader of a independent power. A perceptive Washington refused the deal. It was a ruse.

 10. The King’s New Year’s Resolution was Dependence, not Independence . King George III’s New Year’s Resolution was “independence can never be possible.” After the war, he told John Adams he was the last in England to consent to separation. The Prime Minister and Parliament compelled the king to accept it in the end.