On the Road to Independence

Test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence

1. How long did it take Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence?

2. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he was only one member of a “Committee of Five” assigned the task. Who were the other four”?

3. How many people signed the original, handwritten Declaration of Independence?

4. What is the name given to the printed version of the Declaration of Independence?

5. The Continental Congress met, finalized and approved Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, then sent it out for printing -- how many people signed the approved version?

6. When were the last signatures affixed to the Declaration of Independence?

7. When did King George III receive the Colonists’ Declaration of Independence?

Answers: 1. Jefferson worked on the Declaration of Independence between June 11th and 28th, so it took him 17 days.

2. The “Committee of Five” assigned the task of writing and editing the document we know as the Declaration of Independence included Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston, along with principal author Thomas Jefferson.

3. The original handwritten Declaration of Independence includes 56 signatures and is on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC.

4. Printed versions of the Declaration of Independence were made on the evening of July 4th and the morning of July 5th, 1776 by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap and are referred to as Dunlap broadsides.

5. When Jefferson’s draft was approved and ready for printing, it was signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress. Signing the document was considered an act of treason, punishable by hanging. The names of the remaining signers remained a secret for fear of punishment.

6. One copy of the Dunlap broadside (a print run of 200) was entered into the Congressional Journal and the additional copies were distributed throughout the colonies. On July 19, 1776, after all 13 colonies had approved the document, an “engrossed copy” on parchment paper was ordered so all members of the Continental Congress could sign it. Most members signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2nd, with others following within the next several months.

7. Two copies of the Dunlap broadside exist in the British repositories. Both were transmitted to England with correspondence from Vice Admiral Lord Richard Howe. One is dated July 28th and the other August 11th 1776 from aboard the flagship Eagle. One of the letters to accompany the Dunlap broadsides was addressed to Lord George Germain.

Thank you for taking the time to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence. The original Dunlap broadsides were used to communicate the break with Britain and were distributed throughout the 13 Colonies -- many by horseback. Only 25 copies of the original Dunlap broadsides are known to exist. One, the last one discovered, was purchased by Lyn and Norman Lear who used it in the “Declaration of Independence Road Trip” which took the rare document on a three-and-a-half-year journey around the United States. In the words Norman Lear, founder of the non-profit, nonpartisan project, “The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s birth certificate and is a constant reminder of the freedoms that all Americans enjoy.”

In a sense, Lear repeated the process of the Founding Fathers by physically transporting the document throughout the country so that the nation could hear its message.

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