History is an incredible thing. Even though the events are long gone, there is still so, so much more to learn.
American history is rich and wrought with flaws, but it is our history. And that history began with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776.
We celebrate the historic document that made us independent from Great Britain on the Fourth of July each year, but did you know that that’s not even the real date the original document was signed? That’s right, we’re not even celebrating the day that the founding fathers signed the document!
These 12 facts about the Declaration of Independence may shock you, but they are the truth.
After reading through this list, I was glad to be a little bit wiser about our country’s history.
Do you consider yourself an American history buff? Do you know any other long-forgotten secrets about the document that made us independent from Britain?
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[H/T: History Channel]
Thumbnail source: Wikimedia Commons
1. It Wasn't Signed On The Fourth Of July
Congress did adopt the Declaration on the Fourth of July in 1776, but it wasn’t signed until about a month later. Most delegates signed on August 2.
2. A Copy Was Discovered In 1989
Hundreds of copies of the original declaration were printed on the night of July 4 to be distributed throughout the 13 colonies. They are called “Dunlap broadsides” — a broadside is simply a one-sided print. Only 26 of these copies survive today.
In 1989, when a man bought a picture frame for $4 at a Philadelphia flea market, he found an original printing of the Declaration hidden on the back of it. It later sold for $8.1 million.
3. The Signed Copy Isn't The Original
The original copy from July 4 that went to the printer to be distributed to the states is different from the copy that was signed later on. The copy that was signed is an “engrossed copy,” which means that it was a handwritten copy — most likely by the pen of clerk Timothy Matlack. This is the copy that is widely recognized as the original today.
4. Eight Of The Signers Weren't Born In America
Gwinnett Button, Robert Morris, Francis Lewis, James Wilson, John Witherspoon, George Taylor, Matthew Thornton, and James Smith were all born in different parts of Great Britain.
5. The Ideas In The Declaration Weren't Original
Thomas Jefferson himself has been recorded as stating that this was not a philosophically groundbreaking document. Exact phrases and ideas are copied from Jefferson’s Constitution of Virginia, as well as from The 1689 English Declaration of Rights, which ended King James II’s reign as ruler of England. The Declaration of Independence was a reiteration of American ideology.
6. George Washington Read It Aloud In New York
When Commander George Washington read the Declaration aloud in front of City Hall for his troops, while British soldiers were in their boats in the harbor, the crowd was so rowdy that they tore down a statue of George III and melted it for musket balls to show their verve for independence.
7. One Signer Was Forced To Resign His Support
A lawyer from Princeton, NJ, named Richard Stockton was captured by the British on November 30 of 1776. After months as their prisoner, he took back his support of the Revolution and swore loyalty to the king.
Once he regained his freedom, he renewed his loyalty with New Jersey in 1777.
8. After Its Original Purpose, It Was Widely Ignored
Once the Declaration was used to start a revolution against King George III, it mainly fell to the wayside. That is, until honest Abraham Lincoln used it as the main focus and backbone for his Gettysburg address in 1863. Since then, it’s come to be a recognized symbol for human rights.
9. Benjamin Franklin Was The Oldest To Sign
Franklin was 70 years old at the time, with a 44-year gap between him and the youngest signer, Edward Rutledge, who was a 26-year-old lawyer from South Carolina.
10. It Was Transported To Fort Knox During WWII
It was locked up in 150 pounds of protective gear and transported out of Washington, D.C., after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
11. It Inspired The French Revolution
The Declaration inspired a lot of political action, especially the French Revolution. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen written in 1789 was influenced by the American Declaration of Independence, as well as by the American idea of state constitutions.
12. There Is Writing On The Back
Nothing too juicy, but the back of the original document reads “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s unknown who scrawled the words.
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