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On this day in history, July 2nd, 1776
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. -- Journals of the Continential Congress, July 2nd, 1776

This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States. -- Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 2nd, 1776

I don't know what the big hubbub about Monday is all about.

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we hold these truths to be self evident

I understand, but you know that things took a lot longer back then. I like to go to the Old State House on the morning of each Fourth of July, and hear the Declaration of Independence read from the balcony where it was originally read to the citizens of Boston -- but the original reading was weeks after the vote, because it took them that long for the document to make it here by horseback and stagecoach and whatever else they were using.

4 July 1776 is when the Congress formally voted to approve the document, as I recall. The drafted document was available weeks before, and it took weeks later for it to get distributed.

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Negotiations and debate over the issue of independence lasted a long time. Some members of the Continental Congress felt independence was the right thing to do, others felt reconciliation with the British on better terms was an attainable goal and opposed outright independence.

In early June they got as far as establishing some guidelines: independence had to be an all-or-nothing thing: the vote had to be unanimous (with each colony getting one vote) but they weren't there yet. They did get as far as empanelling Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin as a committee to write a declaration, though.

By late June, the committee reported back a draft, which received mixed reviews. The following week of discussion of the declaration (which included an explicit list of bad things England had done to the Colonies) served to both refine the document into something every colony could agree to, and to convince all the congressional delegations that independence was necessary.

On July 2nd, they weren't satisfied yet with the final draft of the Declaration, but they resolved the issue of independence with the quoted resolution. Although the Declaration had not been written or signed, as of 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress considered the 13 Colonies to be Free and Independent States and no longer part of Great Britain.

On July 4th, they had hammered out the last of the details of the Declaration they had asked Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin to write (the three decided amongst themselves that Jefferson was the best to write the actual text). They voted to adopt it then, and sent it out to the press to have copies made and distributed. The full text was published by the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th. The original was engrossed by two people: the President and Clerk of the Congress.

Sometime in mid August the presentation copy, neatly scribed on velum, was finished and returned to Congress where all the members of Congress available signed it. It is this copy which is most famous.

The Declaration was approved on July 4th, but the vote to be independent was on July 2nd.

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