National Archives and Records Administration

"The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
--John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
The momentous decision of the Continental Congress to sever its ties to Great Britain came on July 2, 1776, which is the date that John Adams thought should be celebrated by future generations. The Declaration of Independence, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, and edited by his colleagues in the Continental Congress, was adopted 2 days later.

The Declaration was a stirring call to throw off the bonds of tyranny. This revolutionary document expressed an abiding faith in humanity and political ideals to which this nation still aspires. The Declaration of Independence has been called the birth certificate of the United States, and it is its adoption that Americans celebrate each year with fireworks on the Fourth of July.

We see below two close-up views of a resolution, adopted July 2, 1776, in which the Continental Congress affirmed their independence from great Britain. The words of the resolution, originally proposed by Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee, are echoed in the Declaration of Independence.

The resolution of July 2, 1776

The lower part of the document (below) lists the 12 colonies that voted "aye" for independence on July 2, 1776. The 13th colony, New York, abstained, awaiting approval from the newly elected New York Convention.

The first printing of the Declaration of Independence was produced during the night of July 4, 1776, by printer John Dunlap. These first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were delivered to the Congress on July 5. The official copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by the delegates to the Continental Congress on August 2, 1776, is enshrined and on permanent display along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the Rotunda of the National Archives.

The documents on this page are from the Papers of the
Continental Congress, the official records of the pre-federal
government of the United States, which are held by the National
Archives.  The papers, consisting of about 50,000 documents
(170,000 manuscript pages) were created or received from 1774 to

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URL: declarat.html
Last updated: March 1996