July 4, 1776: Sacrificing for Freedom
Yesterday we celebrated the 246th anniversary of America's founding. It came about as an act of Congress. The differences between the Congress of 1776 and 2022 are extraordinary.
Then, Congress had just 56 members. Now, 535. Then, as now, our nation was in the midst of insurrection. On Wednesday, April 19, 1775, British troops fired on American "insurrectionists" in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.
Congress sprang into action!
Fourteen months later, June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to decide what to do about British efforts to impose total control over everyone in their 13 American colonies.
Congress appointed a committee and ordered them to draft a secret document. On Wednesday, June 12, 1776, the committee met in a rented room in a boarding house at Market and 7th Streets.
It took the five members of the secret committee 14 days -- they didn't meet on Sundays -- to reach agreement on a draft. On Friday, June 28, 1776, they presented their draft to those who set them to their task.
The "committee of the whole" chaired by Benjamin Harrison of Virginia tabled the resolution for editing. In just two days the larger body made 86 changes, eliminating 480 words and leaving 1,337 words.
The evening of July 1, 1776, was hot and steamy. The chairman of the five-man committee sat at the portable desk he designed and built and began preparing what all hoped would be the final version of the document.
Upon the urging of the chairman, he was left alone to complete his work.
On Tuesday morning, July 2, a 33-year-old Virginia farmer delivered his "fair draft" on four pages of parchment. The farmer was Thomas Jefferson, and the body to which he delivered the document was the Second Continental Congress.