Timeline of the Declaration of Independence


Lexington and Concord

April 19, 1775

Bunker Hill

June 17, 1775

1,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded at this battle outside of Boston.

Olive Branch Petition is submitted to King George

July 8, 1775

This petition called on the King to return the colonies to a state of peace and to end the bloodshed and violence that followed Lexington and Concord. It also asserted the loyalty of the colonists to the King. The King viewed the petition as an act of rebellion.

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

January 10, 1776

Paine's Common Sense was not a legal argument for independence. It presented a common sense argument: the colonies had outgrown Britain and ought to be independent. Is it natural for an island to govern a continent?

Thomas Jefferson travels to Philadelphia

Approx. May 1, 1776

He was traveling to attend the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Virginia.

He was the youngest delegate at the Second Continental Congress.

Richard Henry Lee introduces resolution for independence to Congress

June 7, 1776

The text of Lee's Resolution: "That these United Colonies are, and of right, out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved" (After the Fact, 77).

Congress creates a Committee of Five to Draft a Declaration

June 11, 1776

The Committee of Five was made up of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.

Here is what Adams and Jefferson remember about the writing of the first draft:

Jefferson suggested that Adams write it. "'I will not, replied Adams. 'You shall do it,' persisted Jeffersons. 'Oh no!' 'Why will you not do it? You ought to do it.' 'I will not.' 'Reasons enough.' Adams ticked them off. 'Reason 1st. You are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to be at the head of this business. Reason 2nd. I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular; you are very much otherwise. Reason 3rd. You can write ten times better than I can,' (After the Fact, 79).

George Mason drafted a Declaration of Rights for Virginia

June 12, 1776

The petition for rights stated: "Section 1: That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety" (After the Fact, 56).

Lee's Resolution of Independence is agreed to by Congress

July 2, 1776

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2 would be remembered as the "most memorable Epoca in the History of America. . ." (After the Fact, 78).

The Declaration is edited by Congress

July 3, 1776 - July 4, 1776

Declaration is approved by Congress and sent to printer

July 4, 1776

Declaration is signed by the members of Congress

August 2, 1776

Though the document was signed on August 2, 1776 not everyone in Congress was in Philadelphia at the time. Many of them did not sign until October or November.