The decision to go to war to confirm independence was not something the English colonies in the New World took likely. After many years of trying to convince King George III, and over the objection of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson began to author what was effectively a declaration of war.
To convince Franklin and other skeptics to support the fight for independence, Jefferson presented the preamble of what would become the beginning of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress. It passed on May 15, 1776.
As a result, the Continental Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft a declaration. Committee members were John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. They completed the draft on June 28, 1776.
The Continental Congress debated the draft on July 1-2, 1776. New York and South Carolina were still holdouts, and the two Deleware representatives were deadlocked. This led to the historical ride of Caesar Rodney, who rode 80 miles to Philadelphia to vote in favor of independence.
After Thomas Jefferson made the final agreed upon corrections to the document, the Continental Congress approved the draft on July 4, 1776, with 12 votes. Only New York abstained since they did not have the authority of their government.
The final signatures were added on August 2, 1776. Since New York approved the resolution of independence on July 10, the New York delegation is included among the signatures.
Although we celebrated the nation’s birth in 1776, the new country was not recognized until 1783, when the two nations signed the Treaty of Paris.