B-But Aren’t We British, After All?

Believe it or not, you would have been considered a radical and a troublemaker if — back in 1775 — you advocated for American independence. Most of the people in the 13 colonies considered themselves to be British. The thought of being anything else just seemed strange.

Sure, people had some gripes against the King and Parliament, but such things could be ironed out. It seemed crazy that a few malcontents would want complete independence. But then the British started shooting people in large numbers.

King, and His Country

As the ruler of the colonies, Britain had every right to enforce its law, and ensure its sovereignty over its North American possessions. But when well-armed British troops started mowing down American farmers and militia members with grapeshot, the sentiments of the colonists started to change.

What seemed radical in 1775 became an acceptable position a year later. This was helped along by revolutionary writers like Thomas Paine, whose bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” was published in early 1776.

By the time the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in July of that year, the idea of breaking away from King and country had gained enough traction that Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

After a raucous debate, the Congress finally adopted Declaration of Independence, on July 4.

Put Your John Hancock on This

There were 56 signers to the Declaration of Independence. It was drafted under a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.

They all regarded Jefferson as the strongest and most eloquent writer, so it’s not surprising that most of the words in the finished document were his.

John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration. His signature has become synonomous with “signature” ever since, since his name appears so big and elegant.

Some people say that his name is so big on the document because he had poor eyesight. But the real reason seems to be that – as the first signer — he was writing his name on a big, empty space. He had all the room in the world, and he used it.

At age 70, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest of the signers. Edward Rutledge, who represented South Carolina, was the youngest, at age 26.

Two future presidents signed, John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President). They both died on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration.

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