1.) On this date in 1776 the final text of the Declaration of Independence from England was approved by the Continental Congress.
2.) George Washington.
3.) John Hancock was the only person to sign the original draft of the Declaration on July 4, 1776. The official engrossed version of the Declaration was made a few weeks later.
4.) On this date in 1826, founding fathers John Adams & Thomas Jefferson died only hours apart fifty years after the declaration was made. Adams was the second president of the United States of America, Jefferson the third.
5.) In the summer of 1776, when the Declaration was signed, the population of the nation is estimated to have been about 2.5 million. (Today the population of the U.S. is more than 300 million.)
6.) “Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” … Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. … Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. … If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union: but we shall have saved it, as to make, and keep it, forever worthy of the saving.”— Abraham Lincoln, 1854
7.) On this date in 1831 James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States died.
8.) Vicksburg (Mississippi) surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant & the Union Army in 1863. Eighty years will pass before the city celebrates the Fourth of July again.
9.) John Adams’ famous letter of July 3, 1776, in which he wrote to his wife Abigail what his thoughts were about celebrating the Fourth of July is found on various web sites but is usually incorrectly quoted. Following is the exact text from his letter with his original spellings:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. 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. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).
Note: Adams at the time believed the day of the actual vote for Independence, July 2nd, would be the day remembered and celebrated. No matter Independence was Independence and the Adams family recognized the Fourth in the all the years since.
10.) Philosopher John Locke’s ideas were an important influence on the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson restated Locke’s contract theory of government when he wrote in the Declaration that governments derived “their just Powers from the consent of the people.”