June was a hot month in Philadelphia and all the delegates traveled by horseback or carriage to attend the session. They weren’t paid like Congressmen for their time. No, they expended their own funds all the while trying to ensure that their business or farming ventures back home continued operation. Freedom was worth it and they would take the time necessary, no matter how uncomfortable, to attain their goal.
A committee of five, including among its members John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, was established to draft the Declaration of Independence document. It would need to be forceful, clear and spell out to all why their grievances justified its enactment. It would also have to be signed by all in attendance, asserting the agreement of all the colonies to its validity.
The committee quickly came to the decision that Thomas Jefferson of Virginia should be the drafter. Jefferson himself said that Adams, the more senior member and probably the most outspoken opponent of the Crown, representing the colony already attacked, should be the author. The committee, however, including the strong opinion of Adams, confirmed that Jefferson would be the writer. They felt it important that a representative from Virginia, the largest and most prestigious colony of the time should have the honor and, besides, Jefferson was noted for his eloquence in the use of the written word. His ability would make the declaration one that would live for posterity. The decision was made and Jefferson began his work on June 11th.
For the next two plus weeks, Jefferson toiled with many drafts, getting reviews along the way until on June 28th the committee agreed on a document to be presented to the entire Congress in session. There were hearty deliberations and a little tweaking of the wording and on July 2d, the entire Congress agreed to a final document and after just a few minor wordsmith adjustments it was signed. This was no lighthearted moment, for each of the signers, as representatives of the several colonies, knew that they had just signed their death warrant from the Crown. Should they be captured or for any reason detained they would be subjected to death for treason, with the likelihood of torture before the final action. All of their possessions would also go by default to the Crown and their family members would also be at risk.
So, the Declaration of Independence was enacted two days before the day we celebrate its enactment. The Fourth of July, the day we call Independence Day, was the day it was released for the public and the world to see. The ensuing struggle would cause many to suffer, die and lose family members and fortunes, but this hearty and highly intelligent band of patriots was determined to create a better life, one with freedom and opportunity under God, for the entire world to use as a model. We should not take it lightly; we should take time for reverence and thanksgiving on this day honoring and remembering what they did. It became our national heritage and our guiding document with the blessing of a Divine Creator for posterity and it is truly a privilege to celebrate it today. God bless America and may she ever be free.