The 4th of July is more than hot dogs, fireworks and parades…it’s the anniversary (238th this year) of the day the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress.
To read the text of the Declaration or to see an image of the original document, visit the National Archives website here.
To read more about the Continental Congress, visit the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian.
To see original documents from the Continental Congress, including extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, visit the Library of Congress Continental Congress Collection.
A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer-winning American historian, Joseph Ellis. The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. Revolutionary Summer tells an old story in a new way, with a freshness at once colorful and compelling.
This is the rambunctious story of how America came to declare independence in Philadelphia in 1776. As late as that May, the Continental Congress had no plans to break away from England. Troops under General George Washington had been fighting the British for nearly a year—yet in Philadelphia a mighty bloc known as “reconciliationists,” led by the influential Pennsylvanian John Dickinson, strove to keep America part of the British Empire.
But a cadre of activists—led by the mysterious Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and assisted by his nervous cousin John—plotted to bring about American independence. Their audacious secret plan proposed overturning the reconciliationist government of Pennsylvania and replacing it with pro-independence leaders. Remarkably, the adventure succeeded. The Adams coalition set in motion a startling chain of events in the Philadelphia streets, in the Continental Congress, and throughout the country that culminated in the Declaration of Independence on July 4.
In Declaration William Hogeland brings to vibrant life both the day-to-day excitement and the profound importance of those nine fast-paced weeks essential to the American founding yet little known today. He depicts the strange-bedfellow alliance the Adamses formed with scruffy Philadelphia outsiders and elegant Virginia planters to demand liberty. He paints intimate portraits of key figures: John Dickinson, a patriot who found himself outmaneuvered on the losing side of history; Benjamin Franklin, the most famous man in America, engaged in and perplexed by his city’s upheavals; Samuel Adams, implacable in changing the direction of Congress; his cousin John, anxious about the democratic aspirations of their rabble-rousing Philadelphia allies; and those democratic radical organizers themselves, essential to bringing about independence, all but forgotten until now.
As the patriots’ adventure gathers toward the world-changing climax of the Declaration, conflicts and ironies arise, with trenchant relevance for the most important issues confronting Americans today. Declaration offers a fresh, gripping, and vivid portrait of the passionate men and thrilling events that gave our country birth.