We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. … Every year on July 4th, we celebrate this document on which our government and our identity as Americans are based, but how many of these facts about the Declaration of Independence do we know? This list is great for sharing with kids in the classroom and is the perfect inspiration for a game of trivia!
Our Favorite Declaration of Independence Facts
Thomas Jefferson physically wrote the Declaration of Independence.
It took 17 days to write it!
The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 1, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. The next day, 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor of the motion for independence. Over the next two days, they debated and revised the document. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by Congress, but it took nearly a month before the actual signing of the document took place.
The Declaration of Independence was not the first of its kind in the United States.
Prior to the Continental Congress preparing the Declaration of Independence, several colonies had already declared their independence from Great Britain.
The original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence was lost.
Known as the “original rough draught,” Thomas Jefferson’s first version of the historic document was written over the course of several weeks in June 1776.
More than one copy of the Declaration of Independence exists.
Two additional copies of the Declaration of Independence have been found in the last 25 years.
The original copy of the Declaration of Independence can be viewed in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C.
The Declaration of Independence is meticulously preserved and protected at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Visitors can see it in the museum year-round.
The Declaration of Independence focuses on three key ideas.
While the document includes many important statements, it highlights three key ideas: All men are created equal and have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the government is responsible for protecting those rights; and people have the right to defend these rights for themselves and their fellow Americans.
There are five sections of the Declaration of Independence.
It might look like one rambling document, but there are actually five distinct parts to the Declaration of Independence, including the introduction, the preamble, two body sections, and a conclusion.
They left out a paragraph about the British king in the Declaration of Independence.
As one can imagine, addressing the issue of slavery was complicated, especially in a document that emphasizes individual rights and equality. The original draft contained a paragraph that chastised the British king for his involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and accused him of waging “cruel war against human nature itself.” This section was removed from the final version.
There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
The movie National Treasure claims that there are encrypted instructions written by the Founding Fathers in invisible ink on the back of the Declaration. While this isn’t true, there is something written there: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” No one knows who wrote this, but it seems it was added as a label.
The Declaration of Independence was not immediately made public.
Before being made public, copies were printed and sent to the colonies, where it was read aloud at gatherings. The first time the Declaration of Independence was read aloud was on July 8, 1776, at a huge event at the Philadelphia State House, in the city where it was adopted.
Not everyone was ready to accept the Declaration of Independence when it was first written.
There were many who opposed the idea of American independence and chose to remain loyal to the British monarchy. Known as Loyalists, these colonists believed the Declaration of Independence to be dangerous and feared it would incite violence, turmoil, and anarchy.
The Declaration of Independence sparked a riot in New York City.
Military tension was running high in New York City when a copy of the document arrived on July 9, 1776. When the commander of the Continental forces, George Washington, read it aloud in front of City Hall, it awakened a revolutionary spirit. On that night, a rowdy crowd erupted in cheers and later tore down a statue of George III.
The Declaration of Independence was hidden during World War II.
It was feared that enemy troops might try to target the nation’s historical archives. Along with other valuables, the Declaration of Independence was packed up and stashed away until the war was over.
The Declaration of Independence contains 56 signatures.
The Declaration of Independence features 56 signatures from the 13 colonies. They include Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
John Hancock’s signature is the biggest one on the Declaration of Independence.
You may be asked for your “John Hancock” when a signature is needed, but do you know why? It’s because the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence is that of Founding Father John Hancock. As the president of the Second Continental Congress, he was the first to sign the document and took the opportunity to make sure his name was prominent. This might be one of the most surprising facts about the Declaration of Independence!
Eight people who signed the Declaration of Independence were born in the United Kingdom.
Most members of the Second Continental Congress were born in America, but eight of the men who voted for independence from Britain were actually born in the United Kingdom.
One signer of the Declaration of Independence later recanted.
There was only one person who later recanted their support of the revolution. After lawyer Richard Stockton was captured and jailed for months by the British on November 30, 1776, the delegate repudiated his signature and swore his allegiance to King George III. Fortunately, by December 1777, he was able to take a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey.
Benjamin Franklin was the oldest person to sign the Declaration of Independence.
At 70 years old, Benjamin Franklin was significantly older than the youngest person who signed the Declaration of Independence. South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge was just 26 years old at the time!
Also, check out these History Facts That Will Shock and Amaze Your Students.
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