Original Rough Draught of the Declaration of Independence

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On June 11, 1776, in anticipation of the impending vote for independence from Great Britain, the Continental Congress appointed five men — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston — to write a declaration that would make clear to people everywhere why this break from Great Britain was both necessary and inevitable.

The committee then appointed Jefferson to draft a statement. Jefferson produced a "fair copy" of his draft declaration, which became the basic text of his "original Rough draught." The text was first submitted to Adams, then Franklin, and finally to the other two members of the committee. Before the committee submitted the declaration to Congress on June 28, they made forty-seven emendations to the document. During the ensuing congressional debates of July 1-4, 1776, Congress adopted thirty-nine further revisions to the committee draft.

The four-page "Rough draught" illustrates the numerous additions, deletions, and corrections made at each step along the way. Although most of these alterations are in Jefferson's own distinctive hand — he later indicated the changes he believed to have been made by Adams and Franklin — he opposed many of the revisions made to his original composition.

Late in life Jefferson endorsed this document: "Independence. Declaration of original Rough draught."

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