The Age of George III

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The American Declaration of Independence: 4 July 1776

For many Americans, the word "independence" was a frightening thing even as late as March 1776 and there were fears that if independence was declared, the colonies would embark on internecine civil war. However, from February 1776 the revolutionary leaders in Congress were increasingly aggressive. They urged their colonial governments to send instructions favourable to independence in order that existing instructions from colonies opposed to independence could be countered.

Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connection between then and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

John Hancock, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence

The motion was seconded by John Adams. The motion was debated for two days but a final vote was delayed for three weeks because of the instructions against independence from colonies such as Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, a committee comprising Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania) Roger Sherman (Connecticut), John Adams (Massachusetts) and Robert R Livingston (New York) was appointed to produce a draft declaration of independence. At the same time a committee chaired by John Dickinson (Pennsylvania) comprising one man from each colony was appointed to draft articles of confederation.

It is interesting to note the absence of John Dickinson's signature on the formal document, the text of which is produced elsewhere.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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