Why was the Declaration of Independence handwritten, rather than printed with a printing press?

Why was the Declaration of Independence handwritten, rather than printed with a printing press?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The United States' Declaration of Independence was handwritten by Thomas Jefferson. Why was this done instead of being printed with a printing press?

The Dunlap broadside was the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence and was printed the night of July 4, 1776. Other broadsides were subsequently printed. Why didn't the Founding Fathers just print them out a day earlier and just sign one of those, saving the trouble of writing it out longhand and making it more legible?

Left: Handwritten original, Right: Dunlap broadside


Remember that it takes several times longer to typeset a page (by hand, as in 1776) than to hand-write it; and that the typesetter still requires a hand-written fair copy to set from. So you don't save any time by only typesetting the document - as it must be first written out fair for the typesetter.

From Wikipedia on the Dunlap Broadside (my emphasis).

On July 4, 1776, Congress ordered the same committee charged with writing the document to "superintend and correct the press", that is, supervise the printing. Dunlap, an Irish immigrant then 29 years old, was tasked with the job; he apparently spent much of the night of July 4 setting type, correcting it, and running off the broadside sheets.

In the terminology of the time, a fair copy was the (error and correction free) copy made, for distribution, after all drafts were complete.

In high school I belonged to the club that volunteered to hand-set and print the school's brochures, flyers, and event programs on an ancient hand press. Modest experience only; but based on that I estimate that an experienced typesetter was no more than only a fifth or tenth as fast as a good calligrapher in producing a document. While multiple pages could be set in parallel by multiple setters, that is difficult to do for a single page.

My guess is that a first fair copy was penned by Jefferson from the drafts for signing, and then either it or a second was supplied to the typesetters for working from.


Had the declaration been printed, it would have been subject to the stamp act. Paying for a stamp for a declaration would refute the content of the document. To avoid the problem, the founders wisely wrote the initial document. Now an independent country, subsequent printed editions no longer required stamps.


The Truest Copy of the Declaration of Independence

In June 1992, Tom Lingenfelter, a dealer in rare historical documents and artifacts in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, found the truest copy of the 1776 handwritten Declaration of Independence at a flea market. This extraordinary discovery was able to tell a more complete story of how this priceless document came to be.


LISTEN NOW. Christ, Creation and the Declaration of Independence

More Podcasts, photos and resources: CLICK HERE

PRODUCTION NOTES: Telefunken CU-29 Tube Microphone (1945 Western Electric 6AK5 tube) Universal Audio LA-610 MKII Tube PreAmp & EQ / T4 Tube Opto Leveling Amplifier (all 1960's RCA 12AX7's, Raytheon 12AT7's, General Electric 6BQ5 tubes) Aphex 204 Harman-Kardon TD-4400 Tape Deck (Dolby C) SONY ES-II Magnetic Tape Steinberg / Rupert Neve A/D digital conversion Alesis ML-9600 Mastering.


Additional readings

Jefferson's Writings:

Thomas Jefferson, Writings, Literary Classics of the U.S., 1984.

Standard biographies of Jefferson:

Books about the Declaration of Independence:

Other Reference Sources:

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, edited from the original records in the Library of Congress, Worthington C. Ford ed., Government Printing Office, 1904-1937.
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd ed, Princeton University, 1950-


Contents

Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.

By the time that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. Relations had been deteriorating between the colonies and the mother country since 1763. Parliament enacted a series of measures to increase revenue from the colonies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. Parliament believed that these acts were a legitimate means of having the colonies pay their fair share of the costs to keep them in the British Empire. [14]

Many colonists, however, had developed a different conception of the empire. The colonies were not directly represented in Parliament, and colonists argued that Parliament had no right to levy taxes upon them. This tax dispute was part of a larger divergence between British and American interpretations of the British Constitution and the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies. [15] The orthodox British view, dating from the Glorious Revolution of 1688, was that Parliament was the supreme authority throughout the empire, and so, by definition, anything that Parliament did was constitutional. [16] In the colonies, however, the idea had developed that the British Constitution recognized certain fundamental rights that no government could violate, not even Parliament. [17] After the Townshend Acts, some essayists even began to question whether Parliament had any legitimate jurisdiction in the colonies at all. [18] Anticipating the arrangement of the British Commonwealth, [19] by 1774, American writers such as Samuel Adams, James Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson were arguing that Parliament was the legislature of Great Britain only, and that the colonies, which had their own legislatures, were connected to the rest of the empire only through their allegiance to the Crown. [20]

Congress convenes

The issue of Parliament's authority in the colonies became a crisis after Parliament passed the Coercive Acts (known as the Intolerable Acts in the colonies) in 1774 to punish the colonists for the Gaspee Affair of 1772 and the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Many colonists saw the Coercive Acts as a violation of the British Constitution and thus a threat to the liberties of all of British America, so the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in September 1774 to coordinate a response. Congress organized a boycott of British goods and petitioned the king for repeal of the acts. These measures were unsuccessful because King George and the ministry of Prime Minister Lord North were determined to enforce parliamentary supremacy in America. As the king wrote to North in November 1774, "blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or independent". [21]

Most colonists still hoped for reconciliation with Great Britain, even after fighting began in the American Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. [22] The Second Continental Congress convened at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia in May 1775, and some delegates hoped for eventual independence, but no one yet advocated declaring it. [23] Many colonists no longer believed that Parliament had any sovereignty over them, yet they still professed loyalty to King George, who they hoped would intercede on their behalf. They were disappointed in late 1775 when the king rejected Congress's second petition, issued a Proclamation of Rebellion, and announced before Parliament on October 26 that he was considering "friendly offers of foreign assistance" to suppress the rebellion. [24] A pro-American minority in Parliament warned that the government was driving the colonists toward independence. [25]

Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense was published in January 1776, just as it became clear in the colonies that the king was not inclined to act as a conciliator. [26] Paine had only recently arrived in the colonies from England, and he argued in favor of colonial independence, advocating republicanism as an alternative to monarchy and hereditary rule. [27] Common Sense made a persuasive and impassioned case for independence, which had not yet been given serious intellectual consideration in the American colonies. Paine connected independence with Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity, thereby stimulating public debate on a topic that few had previously dared to openly discuss, [28] and public support for separation from Great Britain steadily increased after its publication. [29]

Some colonists still held out hope for reconciliation, but developments in early 1776 further strengthened public support for independence. In February 1776, colonists learned of Parliament's passage of the Prohibitory Act, which established a blockade of American ports and declared American ships to be enemy vessels. John Adams, a strong supporter of independence, believed that Parliament had effectively declared American independence before Congress had been able to. Adams labeled the Prohibitory Act the "Act of Independency", calling it "a compleat Dismemberment of the British Empire". [30] Support for declaring independence grew even more when it was confirmed that King George had hired German mercenaries to use against his American subjects. [31]

Despite this growing popular support for independence, Congress lacked the clear authority to declare it. Delegates had been elected to Congress by 13 different governments, which included extralegal conventions, ad hoc committees, and elected assemblies, and they were bound by the instructions given to them. Regardless of their personal opinions, delegates could not vote to declare independence unless their instructions permitted such an action. [32] Several colonies, in fact, expressly prohibited their delegates from taking any steps toward separation from Great Britain, while other delegations had instructions that were ambiguous on the issue [33] consequently, advocates of independence sought to have the Congressional instructions revised. For Congress to declare independence, a majority of delegations would need authorization to vote for it, and at least one colonial government would need to specifically instruct its delegation to propose a declaration of independence in Congress. Between April and July 1776, a "complex political war" [34] was waged to bring this about. [35]

Revising instructions

In the campaign to revise Congressional instructions, many Americans formally expressed their support for separation from Great Britain in what were effectively state and local declarations of independence. Historian Pauline Maier identifies more than ninety such declarations that were issued throughout the Thirteen Colonies from April to July 1776. [36] These "declarations" took a variety of forms. Some were formal written instructions for Congressional delegations, such as the Halifax Resolves of April 12, with which North Carolina became the first colony to explicitly authorize its delegates to vote for independence. [37] Others were legislative acts that officially ended British rule in individual colonies, such as the Rhode Island legislature renouncing its allegiance to Great Britain on May 4—the first colony to do so. [38] [39] Many "declarations" were resolutions adopted at town or county meetings that offered support for independence. A few came in the form of jury instructions, such as the statement issued on April 23, 1776, by Chief Justice William Henry Drayton of South Carolina: "the law of the land authorizes me to declare . that George the Third, King of Great Britain . has no authority over us, and we owe no obedience to him." [40] Most of these declarations are now obscure, having been overshadowed by the declaration approved by Congress on July 2, and signed July 4. [41]

Some colonies held back from endorsing independence. Resistance was centered in the middle colonies of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. [42] Advocates of independence saw Pennsylvania as the key if that colony could be converted to the pro-independence cause, it was believed that the others would follow. [42] On May 1, however, opponents of independence retained control of the Pennsylvania Assembly in a special election that had focused on the question of independence. [43] In response, Congress passed a resolution on May 10 which had been promoted by John Adams and Richard Henry Lee, calling on colonies without a "government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs" to adopt new governments. [44] The resolution passed unanimously, and was even supported by Pennsylvania's John Dickinson, the leader of the anti-independence faction in Congress, who believed that it did not apply to his colony. [45]

May 15 preamble

As was the custom, Congress appointed a committee to draft a preamble to explain the purpose of the resolution. John Adams wrote the preamble, which stated that because King George had rejected reconciliation and was hiring foreign mercenaries to use against the colonies, "it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed". [47] Adams's preamble was meant to encourage the overthrow of the governments of Pennsylvania and Maryland, which were still under proprietary governance. [48] Congress passed the preamble on May 15 after several days of debate, but four of the middle colonies voted against it, and the Maryland delegation walked out in protest. [49] Adams regarded his May 15 preamble effectively as an American declaration of independence, although a formal declaration would still have to be made. [50]

Lee's resolution

On the same day that Congress passed Adams's radical preamble, the Virginia Convention set the stage for a formal Congressional declaration of independence. On May 15, the Convention instructed Virginia's congressional delegation "to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain". [51] In accordance with those instructions, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a three-part resolution to Congress on June 7. [52] The motion was seconded by John Adams, calling on Congress to declare independence, form foreign alliances, and prepare a plan of colonial confederation. The part of the resolution relating to declaring independence read:

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 connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. [53]

Lee's resolution met with resistance in the ensuing debate. Opponents of the resolution conceded that reconciliation was unlikely with Great Britain, while arguing that declaring independence was premature, and that securing foreign aid should take priority. [54] Advocates of the resolution countered that foreign governments would not intervene in an internal British struggle, and so a formal declaration of independence was needed before foreign aid was possible. All Congress needed to do, they insisted, was to "declare a fact which already exists". [55] Delegates from Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York were still not yet authorized to vote for independence, however, and some of them threatened to leave Congress if the resolution were adopted. Congress, therefore, voted on June 10 to postpone further discussion of Lee's resolution for three weeks. [56] Until then, Congress decided that a committee should prepare a document announcing and explaining independence in the event that Lee's resolution was approved when it was brought up again in July.

The final push

Support for a Congressional declaration of independence was consolidated in the final weeks of June 1776. On June 14, the Connecticut Assembly instructed its delegates to propose independence and, the following day, the legislatures of New Hampshire and Delaware authorized their delegates to declare independence. [58] In Pennsylvania, political struggles ended with the dissolution of the colonial assembly, and a new Conference of Committees under Thomas McKean authorized Pennsylvania's delegates to declare independence on June 18. [59] The Provincial Congress of New Jersey had been governing the province since January 1776 they resolved on June 15 that Royal Governor William Franklin was "an enemy to the liberties of this country" and had him arrested. [60] On June 21, they chose new delegates to Congress and empowered them to join in a declaration of independence. [61]

Only Maryland and New York had yet to authorize independence toward the end of June. Previously, Maryland's delegates had walked out when the Continental Congress adopted Adams's radical May 15 preamble, and had sent to the Annapolis Convention for instructions. [62] On May 20, the Annapolis Convention rejected Adams's preamble, instructing its delegates to remain against independence. But Samuel Chase went to Maryland and, thanks to local resolutions in favor of independence, was able to get the Annapolis Convention to change its mind on June 28. [63] Only the New York delegates were unable to get revised instructions. When Congress had been considering the resolution of independence on June 8, the New York Provincial Congress told the delegates to wait. [64] But on June 30, the Provincial Congress evacuated New York as British forces approached, and would not convene again until July 10. This meant that New York's delegates would not be authorized to declare independence until after Congress had made its decision. [65]

Political maneuvering was setting the stage for an official declaration of independence even while a document was being written to explain the decision. On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a "Committee of Five" to draft a declaration, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The committee took no minutes, so there is some uncertainty about how the drafting process proceeded contradictory accounts were written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, too many years to be regarded as entirely reliable—although their accounts are frequently cited. [66] What is certain is that the committee discussed the general outline which the document should follow and decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. [67] The committee in general, and Jefferson in particular, thought that Adams should write the document, but Adams persuaded them to choose Jefferson and promised to consult with him personally. [2] Adams also convinced Jefferson by giving him some drinks. Jefferson was a little nervous about writing it, so Adams calmed him down with the drinks. [68] Considering Congress's busy schedule, Jefferson probably had limited time for writing over the next 17 days, and he likely wrote the draft quickly. [69] He then consulted the others and made some changes, and then produced another copy incorporating these alterations. The committee presented this copy to the Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was "A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled." [70]

Congress ordered that the draft "lie on the table" [71] and then methodically edited Jefferson's primary document for the next two days, shortening it by a fourth, removing unnecessary wording, and improving sentence structure. [72] They removed Jefferson's assertion that King George III had forced slavery onto the colonies, [73] in order to moderate the document and appease those in South Carolina and Georgia, both states which had significant involvement in the slave trade. Jefferson later wrote in his autobiography that Northern states were also supportive towards the clauses removal, "for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others." [74] Jefferson wrote that Congress had "mangled" his draft version, but the Declaration that was finally produced was "the majestic document that inspired both contemporaries and posterity", in the words of his biographer John Ferling. [72]

Congress tabled the draft of the declaration on Monday, July 1 and resolved itself into a committee of the whole, with Benjamin Harrison of Virginia presiding, and they resumed debate on Lee's resolution of independence. [75] John Dickinson made one last effort to delay the decision, arguing that Congress should not declare independence without first securing a foreign alliance and finalizing the Articles of Confederation. [76] John Adams gave a speech in reply to Dickinson, restating the case for an immediate declaration.

A vote was taken after a long day of speeches, each colony casting a single vote, as always. The delegation for each colony numbered from two to seven members, and each delegation voted among themselves to determine the colony's vote. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against declaring independence. The New York delegation abstained, lacking permission to vote for independence. Delaware cast no vote because the delegation was split between Thomas McKean, who voted yes, and George Read, who voted no. The remaining nine delegations voted in favor of independence, which meant that the resolution had been approved by the committee of the whole. The next step was for the resolution to be voted upon by Congress itself. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was opposed to Lee's resolution but desirous of unanimity, and he moved that the vote be postponed until the following day. [77]

On July 2, South Carolina reversed its position and voted for independence. In the Pennsylvania delegation, Dickinson and Robert Morris abstained, allowing the delegation to vote three-to-two in favor of independence. The tie in the Delaware delegation was broken by the timely arrival of Caesar Rodney, who voted for independence. The New York delegation abstained once again since they were still not authorized to vote for independence, although they were allowed to do so a week later by the New York Provincial Congress. [78] The resolution of independence was adopted with twelve affirmative votes and one abstention, and the colonies formally severed political ties with Great Britain. [79] John Adams wrote to his wife on the following day and predicted that July 2 would become a great American holiday [80] He thought that the vote for independence would be commemorated he did not foresee that Americans would instead celebrate Independence Day on the date when the announcement of that act was finalized. [81]

I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. [82]

Congress next turned its attention to the committee's draft of the declaration. They made a few changes in wording during several days of debate and deleted nearly a fourth of the text. The wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776 and sent to the printer for publication.

There is a distinct change in wording from this original broadside printing of the Declaration and the final official engrossed copy. The word "unanimous" was inserted as a result of a Congressional resolution passed on July 19, 1776:

Resolved, That the Declaration passed on the 4th, be fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile of "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America," and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress. [84]

Historian George Billias says:

Independence amounted to a new status of interdependence: the United States was now a sovereign nation entitled to the privileges and responsibilities that came with that status. America thus became a member of the international community, which meant becoming a maker of treaties and alliances, a military ally in diplomacy, and a partner in foreign trade on a more equal basis. [85]

The declaration is not divided into formal sections but it is often discussed as consisting of five parts: introduction, preamble, indictment of King George III, denunciation of the British people, and conclusion. [86]

Asserts as a matter of Natural Law the ability of a people to assume political independence acknowledges that the grounds for such independence must be reasonable, and therefore explicable, and ought to be explained.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." [87]

Outlines a general philosophy of government that justifies revolution when government harms natural rights. [86]

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

A bill of particulars documenting the king's "repeated injuries and usurpations" of the Americans' rights and liberties. [86]

"Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

"He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

"He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

"He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

"He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.

"He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

"He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

"He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

"He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

"He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

"For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

"For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

"For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

"For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

"For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

"For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

"For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

"For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

"He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

"He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

"He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

Describes the colonists' attempts to inform and warn the British people of the king's injustice, and the British people's failure to act. Even so, it affirms the colonists' ties to the British as "brethren." [86]

"Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity."

This section essentially finishes the case for independence. The conditions that justified revolution have been shown. [86]

"We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends."

The signers assert that there exist conditions under which people must change their government, that the British have produced such conditions and, by necessity, the colonies must throw off political ties with the British Crown and become independent states. The conclusion contains, at its core, the Lee Resolution that had been passed on July 2.

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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 connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

The first and most famous signature on the engrossed copy was that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress. Two future presidents (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) and a father and great-grandfather of two other presidents (Benjamin Harrison V) were among the signatories. Edward Rutledge (age 26) was the youngest signer, and Benjamin Franklin (age 70) was the oldest signer. The fifty-six signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows (from north to south): [88]

  • New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
  • Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
  • Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
  • Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
  • New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
  • New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
  • Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
  • Delaware: George Read, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean
  • Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
  • Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
  • North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
  • South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton
  • Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Historians have often sought to identify the sources that most influenced the words and political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence. By Jefferson's own admission, the Declaration contained no original ideas, but was instead a statement of sentiments widely shared by supporters of the American Revolution. As he explained in 1825:

Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. [89]

Jefferson's most immediate sources were two documents written in June 1776: his own draft of the preamble of the Constitution of Virginia, and George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Ideas and phrases from both of these documents appear in the Declaration of Independence. [90] Mason's opening was:

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 acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. [91]

Mason was, in turn, directly influenced by the 1689 English Declaration of Rights, which formally ended the reign of King James II. [92] During the American Revolution, Jefferson and other Americans looked to the English Declaration of Rights as a model of how to end the reign of an unjust king. [93] The Scottish Declaration of Arbroath (1320) and the Dutch Act of Abjuration (1581) have also been offered as models for Jefferson's Declaration, but these models are now accepted by few scholars. [94]

Jefferson wrote that a number of authors exerted a general influence on the words of the Declaration. [95] English political theorist John Locke is usually cited as one of the primary influences, a man whom Jefferson called one of "the three greatest men that have ever lived". [96] In 1922, historian Carl L. Becker wrote, "Most Americans had absorbed Locke's works as a kind of political gospel and the Declaration, in its form, in its phraseology, follows closely certain sentences in Locke's second treatise on government." [97] The extent of Locke's influence on the American Revolution has been questioned by some subsequent scholars, however. Historian Ray Forrest Harvey argued in 1937 for the dominant influence of Swiss jurist Jean Jacques Burlamaqui, declaring that Jefferson and Locke were at "two opposite poles" in their political philosophy, as evidenced by Jefferson's use in the Declaration of Independence of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" instead of "property". [98] Other scholars emphasized the influence of republicanism rather than Locke's classical liberalism. [99] Historian Garry Wills argued that Jefferson was influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment, particularly Francis Hutcheson, rather than Locke, [100] an interpretation that has been strongly criticized. [101]

Legal historian John Phillip Reid has written that the emphasis on the political philosophy of the Declaration has been misplaced. The Declaration is not a philosophical tract about natural rights, argues Reid, but is instead a legal document—an indictment against King George for violating the constitutional rights of the colonists. [102] As such, it follows the process of the 1550 Magdeburg Confession, which legitimized resistance against Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in a multi-step legal formula now known as the doctrine of the Lesser magistrate. [103] Historian David Armitage has argued that the Declaration was strongly influenced by de Vattel's The Law of Nations, the dominant international law treatise of the period, and a book that Benjamin Franklin said was "continually in the hands of the members of our Congress". [104] Armitage writes, "Vattel made independence fundamental to his definition of statehood" therefore, the primary purpose of the Declaration was "to express the international legal sovereignty of the United States". If the United States were to have any hope of being recognized by the European powers, the American revolutionaries first had to make it clear that they were no longer dependent on Great Britain. [105] The Declaration of Independence does not have the force of law domestically, but nevertheless it may help to provide historical and legal clarity about the Constitution and other laws. [106]

The Declaration became official when Congress voted for it on July 4 signatures of the delegates were not needed to make it official. The handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by Congress is dated July 4, 1776. The signatures of fifty-six delegates are affixed however, the exact date when each person signed it has long been the subject of debate. Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams all wrote that the Declaration had been signed by Congress on July 4. [107] But in 1796, signer Thomas McKean disputed that the Declaration had been signed on July 4, pointing out that some signers were not then present, including several who were not even elected to Congress until after that date. [108]

The Declaration was transposed on paper, adopted by the Continental Congress, and signed by John Hancock, President of the Congress, on July 4, 1776, according to the 1911 record of events by the U.S. State Department under Secretary Philander C. Knox. [109] On August 2, 1776, a parchment paper copy of the Declaration was signed by 56 persons. [109] Many of these signers were not present when the original Declaration was adopted on July 4. [109] Signer Matthew Thornton from New Hampshire was seated in the Continental Congress in November he asked for and received the privilege of adding his signature at that time, and signed on November 4, 1776. [109]

Historians have generally accepted McKean's version of events, arguing that the famous signed version of the Declaration was created after July 19, and was not signed by Congress until August 2, 1776. [110] In 1986, legal historian Wilfred Ritz argued that historians had misunderstood the primary documents and given too much credence to McKean, who had not been present in Congress on July 4. [111] According to Ritz, about thirty-four delegates signed the Declaration on July 4, and the others signed on or after August 2. [112] Historians who reject a July 4 signing maintain that most delegates signed on August 2, and that those eventual signers who were not present added their names later. [113]

Two future U.S. presidents were among the signatories: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The most famous signature on the engrossed copy is that of John Hancock, who presumably signed first as President of Congress. [114] Hancock's large, flamboyant signature became iconic, and the term John Hancock emerged in the United States as an informal synonym for "signature". [115] A commonly circulated but apocryphal account claims that, after Hancock signed, the delegate from Massachusetts commented, "The British ministry can read that name without spectacles." Another apocryphal report indicates that Hancock proudly declared, "There! I guess King George will be able to read that!" [116]

Various legends emerged years later about the signing of the Declaration, when the document had become an important national symbol. In one famous story, John Hancock supposedly said that Congress, having signed the Declaration, must now "all hang together", and Benjamin Franklin replied: "Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." The quotation did not appear in print until more than fifty years after Franklin's death. [117]

The Syng inkstand used at the signing was also used at the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787.

After Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration on July 4, a handwritten copy was sent a few blocks away to the printing shop of John Dunlap. Through the night, Dunlap printed about 200 broadsides for distribution. Soon, it was being read to audiences and reprinted in newspapers throughout the 13 states. The first formal public readings of the document took place on July 8, in Philadelphia (by John Nixon in the yard of Independence Hall), Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania the first newspaper to publish it was the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6. [118] A German translation of the Declaration was published in Philadelphia by July 9. [119]

President of Congress John Hancock sent a broadside to General George Washington, instructing him to have it proclaimed "at the Head of the Army in the way you shall think it most proper". [120] Washington had the Declaration read to his troops in New York City on July 9, with thousands of British troops on ships in the harbor. Washington and Congress hoped that the Declaration would inspire the soldiers, and encourage others to join the army. [118] After hearing the Declaration, crowds in many cities tore down and destroyed signs or statues representing royal authority. An equestrian statue of King George in New York City was pulled down and the lead used to make musket balls. [121]

One of the first readings of the Declaration by the British is believed to have taken place at the Rose and Crown Tavern on Staten Island, New York in the presence of General Howe. [122] British officials in North America sent copies of the Declaration to Great Britain. [123] It was published in British newspapers beginning in mid-August, it had reached Florence and Warsaw by mid-September, and a German translation appeared in Switzerland by October. The first copy of the Declaration sent to France got lost, and the second copy arrived only in November 1776. [124] It reached Portuguese America by Brazilian medical student "Vendek" José Joaquim Maia e Barbalho, who had met with Thomas Jefferson in Nîmes.

The Spanish-American authorities banned the circulation of the Declaration, but it was widely transmitted and translated: by Venezuelan Manuel García de Sena, by Colombian Miguel de Pombo, by Ecuadorian Vicente Rocafuerte, and by New Englanders Richard Cleveland and William Shaler, who distributed the Declaration and the United States Constitution among Creoles in Chile and Indians in Mexico in 1821. [125] The North Ministry did not give an official answer to the Declaration, but instead secretly commissioned pamphleteer John Lind to publish a response entitled Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress. [126] British Tories denounced the signers of the Declaration for not applying the same principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to African Americans. [127] Thomas Hutchinson, the former royal governor of Massachusetts, also published a rebuttal. [128] [129] These pamphlets challenged various aspects of the Declaration. Hutchinson argued that the American Revolution was the work of a few conspirators who wanted independence from the outset, and who had finally achieved it by inducing otherwise loyal colonists to rebel. [130] Lind's pamphlet had an anonymous attack on the concept of natural rights written by Jeremy Bentham, an argument that he repeated during the French Revolution. [131] Both pamphlets questioned how the American slaveholders in Congress could proclaim that "all men are created equal" without freeing their own slaves. [132]

William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had fought in the war, freed his slave Prince Whipple because of his revolutionary ideals. In the postwar decades, other slaveholders also freed their slaves from 1790 to 1810, the percentage of free blacks in the Upper South increased to 8.3 percent from less than one percent of the black population. [133] Northern states began abolishing slavery shortly after the war for Independence began, and all had abolished slavery by 1804.

Later in 1776, a group of 547 Loyalists, largely from New York, signed a Declaration of Dependence pledging their loyalty to the Crown. [134]

The official copy of the Declaration of Independence was the one printed on July 4, 1776, under Jefferson's supervision. It was sent to the states and to the Army and was widely reprinted in newspapers. The slightly different "engrossed copy" (shown at the top of this article) was made later for members to sign. The engrossed version is the one widely distributed in the 21st century. Note that the opening lines differ between the two versions. [83]

The copy of the Declaration that was signed by Congress is known as the engrossed or parchment copy. It was probably engrossed (that is, carefully handwritten) by clerk Timothy Matlack. [135] A facsimile made in 1823 has become the basis of most modern reproductions rather than the original because of poor conservation of the engrossed copy through the 19th century. [135] In 1921, custody of the engrossed copy of the Declaration was transferred from the State Department to the Library of Congress, along with the United States Constitution. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the documents were moved for safekeeping to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox in Kentucky, where they were kept until 1944. [136] In 1952, the engrossed Declaration was transferred to the National Archives and is now on permanent display at the National Archives in the "Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom". [137]

The document signed by Congress and enshrined in the National Archives is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, but historian Julian P. Boyd argued that the Declaration, like Magna Carta, is not a single document. Boyd considered the printed broadsides ordered by Congress to be official texts, as well. The Declaration was first published as a broadside that was printed the night of July 4 by John Dunlap of Philadelphia. Dunlap printed about 200 broadsides, of which 26 are known to survive. The 26th copy was discovered in The National Archives in England in 2009. [138]

In 1777, Congress commissioned Mary Katherine Goddard to print a new broadside that listed the signers of the Declaration, unlike the Dunlap broadside. [135] [139] Nine copies of the Goddard broadside are known to still exist. [139] A variety of broadsides printed by the states are also extant, including seven copies of the Solomon Southwick broadside, one of which was acquired by Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. [139] [140]

Several early handwritten copies and drafts of the Declaration have also been preserved. Jefferson kept a four-page draft that late in life he called the "original Rough draught". [141] It is not known how many drafts Jefferson wrote prior to this one, and how much of the text was contributed by other committee members. In 1947, Boyd discovered a fragment of an earlier draft in Jefferson's handwriting. [142] Jefferson and Adams sent copies of the rough draft to friends, with slight variations.

During the writing process, Jefferson showed the rough draft to Adams and Franklin, and perhaps to other members of the drafting committee, [141] who made a few more changes. Franklin, for example, may have been responsible for changing Jefferson's original phrase "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "We hold these truths to be self-evident". [143] Jefferson incorporated these changes into a copy that was submitted to Congress in the name of the committee. [141] The copy that was submitted to Congress on June 28 has been lost and was perhaps destroyed in the printing process, [144] or destroyed during the debates in accordance with Congress's secrecy rule. [145]

On April 21, 2017, it was announced that a second engrossed copy had been discovered in the archives at West Sussex County Council in Chichester, England. [146] Named by its finders the "Sussex Declaration", it differs from the National Archives copy (which the finders refer to as the "Matlack Declaration") in that the signatures on it are not grouped by States. How it came to be in England is not yet known, but the finders believe that the randomness of the signatures points to an origin with signatory James Wilson, who had argued strongly that the Declaration was made not by the States but by the whole people. [147] [148]

Years of exposure to damaging lighting would result in the original Declaration of Independence document having much of its ink fade by 1876. [149] [150]

The Declaration was given little attention in the years immediately following the American Revolution, having served its original purpose in announcing the independence of the United States. [151] Early celebrations of Independence Day largely ignored the Declaration, as did early histories of the Revolution. The act of declaring independence was considered important, whereas the text announcing that act attracted little attention. [152] The Declaration was rarely mentioned during the debates about the United States Constitution, and its language was not incorporated into that document. [153] George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights was more influential, and its language was echoed in state constitutions and state bills of rights more often than Jefferson's words. [154] "In none of these documents," wrote Pauline Maier, "is there any evidence whatsoever that the Declaration of Independence lived in men's minds as a classic statement of American political principles." [155]

Influence in other countries

Many leaders of the French Revolution admired the Declaration of Independence [155] but were also interested in the new American state constitutions. [156] The inspiration and content of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) emerged largely from the ideals of the American Revolution. [157] Lafayette prepared its key drafts, working closely in Paris with his friend Thomas Jefferson. It also borrowed language from George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights. [158] [159] The declaration also influenced the Russian Empire, and it had a particular impact on the Decembrist revolt and other Russian thinkers.

According to historian David Armitage, the Declaration of Independence did prove to be internationally influential, but not as a statement of human rights. Armitage argues that the Declaration was the first in a new genre of declarations of independence which announced the creation of new states. Other French leaders were directly influenced by the text of the Declaration of Independence itself. The Manifesto of the Province of Flanders (1790) was the first foreign derivation of the Declaration [160] others include the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence (1811), the Liberian Declaration of Independence (1847), the declarations of secession by the Confederate States of America (1860–61), and the Vietnamese Proclamation of Independence (1945). [161] These declarations echoed the United States Declaration of Independence in announcing the independence of a new state, without necessarily endorsing the political philosophy of the original. [162]

Other countries have used the Declaration as inspiration or have directly copied sections from it. These include the Haitian declaration of January 1, 1804 during the Haitian Revolution, the United Provinces of New Granada in 1811, the Argentine Declaration of Independence in 1816, the Chilean Declaration of Independence in 1818, Costa Rica in 1821, El Salvador in 1821, Guatemala in 1821, Honduras in 1821, Mexico in 1821, Nicaragua in 1821, Peru in 1821, Bolivian War of Independence in 1825, Uruguay in 1825, Ecuador in 1830, Colombia in 1831, Paraguay in 1842, Dominican Republic in 1844, Texas Declaration of Independence in March 1836, California Republic in November 1836, Hungarian Declaration of Independence in 1849, Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand in 1835, and the Czechoslovak declaration of independence from 1918 drafted in Washington D.C. with Gutzon Borglum among the drafters. The Rhodesian declaration of independence is based on the American one, as well, ratified in November 1965, although it omits the phrases "all men are created equal" and "the consent of the governed". [125] [163] [164] [165] The South Carolina declaration of secession from December 1860 also mentions the U.S. Declaration of Independence, though it omits references to "all men are created equal" and "consent of the governed".

Revival of interest

Interest in the Declaration was revived in the 1790s with the emergence of the United States's first political parties. [166] Throughout the 1780s, few Americans knew or cared who wrote the Declaration. [167] But in the next decade, Jeffersonian Republicans sought political advantage over their rival Federalists by promoting both the importance of the Declaration and Jefferson as its author. [168] Federalists responded by casting doubt on Jefferson's authorship or originality, and by emphasizing that independence was declared by the whole Congress, with Jefferson as just one member of the drafting committee. Federalists insisted that Congress's act of declaring independence, in which Federalist John Adams had played a major role, was more important than the document announcing it. [169] But this view faded away, like the Federalist Party itself, and, before long, the act of declaring independence became synonymous with the document.

A less partisan appreciation for the Declaration emerged in the years following the War of 1812, thanks to a growing American nationalism and a renewed interest in the history of the Revolution. [170] In 1817, Congress commissioned John Trumbull's famous painting of the signers, which was exhibited to large crowds before being installed in the Capitol. [171] The earliest commemorative printings of the Declaration also appeared at this time, offering many Americans their first view of the signed document. [172] Collective biographies of the signers were first published in the 1820s, [173] giving birth to what Garry Wills called the "cult of the signers". [174] In the years that followed, many stories about the writing and signing of the document were published for the first time.

When interest in the Declaration was revived, the sections that were most important in 1776 were no longer relevant: the announcement of the independence of the United States and the grievances against King George. But the second paragraph was applicable long after the war had ended, with its talk of self-evident truths and unalienable rights. [175] The identity of natural law since the 18th century has seen increasing ascendancy towards political and moral norms versus the law of nature, God, or human nature as seen in the past. [176] The Constitution and the Bill of Rights lacked sweeping statements about rights and equality, and advocates of groups with grievances turned to the Declaration for support. [177] Starting in the 1820s, variations of the Declaration were issued to proclaim the rights of workers, farmers, women, and others. [178] In 1848, for example, the Seneca Falls Convention of women's rights advocates declared that "all men and women are created equal". [179]

John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence (1817–1826)

John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence has played a significant role in popular conceptions of the Declaration of Independence. The painting is 12-by-18-foot (3.7 by 5.5 m) in size and was commissioned by the United States Congress in 1817 it has hung in the United States Capitol Rotunda since 1826. It is sometimes described as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it actually shows the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Second Continental Congress on June 28, 1776, and not the signing of the document, which took place later. [181]

Trumbull painted the figures from life whenever possible, but some had died and images could not be located hence, the painting does not include all the signers of the Declaration. One figure had participated in the drafting but did not sign the final document another refused to sign. In fact, the membership of the Second Continental Congress changed as time passed, and the figures in the painting were never in the same room at the same time. It is, however, an accurate depiction of the room in Independence Hall, the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Trumbull's painting has been depicted multiple times on U.S. currency and postage stamps. Its first use was on the reverse side of the $100 National Bank Note issued in 1863. A few years later, the steel engraving used in printing the bank notes was used to produce a 24-cent stamp, issued as part of the 1869 Pictorial Issue. An engraving of the signing scene has been featured on the reverse side of the United States two-dollar bill since 1976.

Slavery and the Declaration

The apparent contradiction between the claim that "all men are created equal" and the existence of slavery in the United States attracted comment when the Declaration was first published. Many of the founders understood the incompatibility of the statement of natural equality with the institution of slavery, but continued to enjoy the “Rights of Man”. [182] Jefferson had included a paragraph in his initial draft that asserted that King George III had forced the slave trade onto the colonies, but this was deleted from the final version. [183] [73] Jefferson himself was a prominent Virginia slaveowner, owning six hundred enslaved Africans on his Monticello plantation. [184] Referring to this contradiction, English abolitionist Thomas Day wrote in a 1776 letter, "If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves." [185] The African-American writer Lemuel Haynes expressed similar viewpoints in his essay "Liberty Further Extended," where he wrote that "Liberty is Equally as pre[c]ious to a Black man, as it is to a white one". [186]

In the 19th century, the Declaration took on a special significance for the abolitionist movement. Historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown wrote that "abolitionists tended to interpret the Declaration of Independence as a theological as well as a political document". [187] Abolitionist leaders Benjamin Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison adopted the "twin rocks" of "the Bible and the Declaration of Independence" as the basis for their philosophies. "As long as there remains a single copy of the Declaration of Independence, or of the Bible, in our land," wrote Garrison, "we will not despair." [188] For radical abolitionists such as Garrison, the most important part of the Declaration was its assertion of the right of revolution. Garrison called for the destruction of the government under the Constitution, and the creation of a new state dedicated to the principles of the Declaration. [189]

The controversial question of whether to allow additional slave states into the United States coincided with the growing stature of the Declaration. The first major public debate about slavery and the Declaration took place during the Missouri controversy of 1819 to 1821. [190] Anti-slavery Congressmen argued that the language of the Declaration indicated that the Founding Fathers of the United States had been opposed to slavery in principle, and so new slave states should not be added to the country. [191] Pro-slavery Congressmen led by Senator Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina argued that the Declaration was not a part of the Constitution and therefore had no relevance to the question. [192]

With the abolitionist movement gaining momentum, defenders of slavery such as John Randolph and John C. Calhoun found it necessary to argue that the Declaration's assertion that "all men are created equal" was false, or at least that it did not apply to black people. [193] During the debate over the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1853, for example, Senator John Pettit of Indiana argued that the statement "all men are created equal" was not a "self-evident truth" but a "self-evident lie". [194] Opponents of the Kansas–Nebraska Act, including Salmon P. Chase and Benjamin Wade, defended the Declaration and what they saw as its antislavery principles. [195]

John Brown's Declaration of Liberty

In preparing for his raid on Harpers Ferry, said by Stephen Douglass to be the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States, [196] : 27–28 abolitionist John Brown had many copies printed of a Provisional Constitution. (When the seceding states created the Confederate States of America 16 months later, they operated for over a year under a Provisional Constitution.) It outlines the three branches of government in the quasi-country he hoped to set up in the Appalachian Mountains. It was widely reproduced in the press, and in full in the Select Senate Committee report on John Brown's insurrection (the Mason Report). [197]

Much less known, as Brown did not have it printed, is his Declaration of Liberty, dated July 4, 1859, found among his papers at the Kennedy Farm. [198] : 330–331 It was written out on sheets of paper attached to fabric, to allow it to be rolled, and it was rolled when found. The hand is that of Owen Brown, who often served as his father's amanuensis. [199]

Imitating the vocabulary, punctution, and capitalization of the 73-year-old U.S. Declaration, the 2000-word document begins:

July 4th 1859

A Declaration of Liberty
By the Representatives of the slave Popolation of the United States of America

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for an Oppressed People to Rise, and assert their Natural Rights, as Human Beings, as Native & mutual Citizens of a free Republic, and break that odious Yoke of oppression, which is so unjustly laid upon them by their fellow Countrymen, and to assume among the powers of Earth the same equal privileges to which the Laws of Nature, & natures God entitle them A moderate respect for the opinions of Mankind, requires that they should declare the causes which incite them to this just & worthy action.

We hold these truths to be Self Evident That All Men are Created Equal That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are Life, Liberty & the persuit of happiness. That Nature hath freely given to all Men, a full Supply of Air. Water, & Land for their sustinance, & mutual happiness, That No Man has any right to deprive his fellow Man, of these Inherent rights, except in punishment of Crime. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That when any form of Government, becomes destructive to these ends, It is the right of the People, to alter, Amend, or Remoddel it, Laying its foundation on Such Principles, & organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect the safety, & happiness of the Human Race. [200]

The document was apparently intended to be read aloud, but so far as is known Brown never did so, even though he read the Provisional Constitution aloud the day the raid on Harpers Ferry began. [201] : 74 Very much aware of the history of the American Revolution, he would have read the Declaration aloud after the revolt had started. The document was not published until 1894, and by someone who did not realize its importance and buried it in an appendix of documents. [198] : 637–643 It is missing from most but not all studies of John Brown. [202] [201] : 69–73

Lincoln and the Declaration

The Declaration's relationship to slavery was taken up in 1854 by Abraham Lincoln, a little-known former Congressman who idolized the Founding Fathers. [203] Lincoln thought that the Declaration of Independence expressed the highest principles of the American Revolution, and that the Founding Fathers had tolerated slavery with the expectation that it would ultimately wither away. [11] For the United States to legitimize the expansion of slavery in the Kansas–Nebraska Act, thought Lincoln, was to repudiate the principles of the Revolution. In his October 1854 Peoria speech, Lincoln said:

Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a "sacred right of self-government". . Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. . Let us repurify it. Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. . If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union: but we shall have saved it, as to make, and keep it, forever worthy of the saving. [204]

The meaning of the Declaration was a recurring topic in the famed debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Douglas argued that the phrase "all men are created equal" in the Declaration referred to white men only. The purpose of the Declaration, he said, had simply been to justify the independence of the United States, and not to proclaim the equality of any "inferior or degraded race". [205] Lincoln, however, thought that the language of the Declaration was deliberately universal, setting a high moral standard to which the American republic should aspire. "I had thought the Declaration contemplated the progressive improvement in the condition of all men everywhere", he said. [206] During the seventh and last joint debate with Steven Douglas at Alton, Illinois, on October 15, 1858, Lincoln said about the declaration:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in "certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere. [207]

According to Pauline Maier, Douglas's interpretation was more historically accurate, but Lincoln's view ultimately prevailed. "In Lincoln's hands," wrote Maier, "the Declaration of Independence became first and foremost a living document" with "a set of goals to be realized over time". [208]

Like Daniel Webster, James Wilson, and Joseph Story before him, Lincoln argued that the Declaration of Independence was a founding document of the United States, and that this had important implications for interpreting the Constitution, which had been ratified more than a decade after the Declaration. [210] The Constitution did not use the word "equality", yet Lincoln believed that the concept that "all men are created equal" remained a part of the nation's founding principles. [211] He famously expressed this belief in the opening sentence of his 1863 Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago [i.e. in 1776] our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Lincoln's view of the Declaration became influential, seeing it as a moral guide to interpreting the Constitution. "For most people now," wrote Garry Wills in 1992, "the Declaration means what Lincoln told us it means, as a way of correcting the Constitution itself without overthrowing it." [212] Admirers of Lincoln such as Harry V. Jaffa praised this development. Critics of Lincoln, notably Willmoore Kendall and Mel Bradford, argued that Lincoln dangerously expanded the scope of the national government and violated states' rights by reading the Declaration into the Constitution. [213]

Women's suffrage and the Declaration

In July 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, the first women's rights convention. It was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt. They patterned their "Declaration of Sentiments" on the Declaration of Independence, in which they demanded social and political equality for women. Their motto was that "All men and women are created equal", and they demanded the right to vote. [214] [215]

Twentieth century and later

The Declaration was chosen to be the first digitized text (1971). [216]

The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated in 1984 in Constitution Gardens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the signatures of all the original signers are carved in stone with their names, places of residence, and occupations.

The new One World Trade Center building in New York City (2014) is 1776 feet high to symbolize the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed. [217] [218] [219]

Popular culture

The adoption of the Declaration of Independence was dramatized in the 1969 Tony Award-winning musical 1776 and the 1972 film version, as well as in the 2008 television miniseries John Adams. [220] [221] In 1970, The 5th Dimension recorded the opening of the Declaration on their album Portrait in the song "Declaration". It was first performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on December 7, 1969, and it was taken as a song of protest against the Vietnam War. [222] The Declaration of Independence is a plot device in the 2004 American film National Treasure. [223] After the 2009 death of radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, Focus Today aired a "clip" of Harvey speaking about the lives of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. [224]


Why were the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution hand-written in an age of printed type?

The process of producing a copy of a text in large, bold print onto parchment is called engrossing. This term is still used today for the production of the final copies of laws. The usage of parchment as a preferred option to paper goes to the advent of print itself, as parchment was seen as a more formal, luxurious medium of writing, especially in the context of preservation and archiving. English laws were generally engrossed onto parchment in order to be suitably readable, durable, and formal. This was replicated for the production of the engrossed copy of the Declaration by Timothy Matlack and the Constitution by Jacob Shallus. It was only these versions which were actually signed. The public would have seen the Declaration only through paper-printed versions like the 200 Dunlap copies or innumerable copies in newspapers.

What did King George Iii see? Did he see an actual, signed copy?

If we used modern paper would it degrade as much as these parchment documents have?

I always thought that they didn't set it in type because there would only be one or two copies of each, and setting the type would be too time consuming.

To add to this, parchment/vellum is extremely durable. This fact is obvious if you've ever looked at an ancient document written on parchment/vellum: they look very well preserved, even if they are very old. Many of these books have been through a lot over the course of over a thousand years too, and while you can see signs of wear, they are still remarkably well preserved.

Wikipedia says this about the durability of parchment/vellum and its continued use to this day:

Lasting in excess of 1,000 years—Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care (Troyes, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 504), for example dates from about 600 and is in excellent condition—animal vellum can be far more durable than paper. For this reason, many important documents are written on animal vellum, such as diplomas. Referring to a diploma as a "sheepskin" alludes to the time when diplomas were written on vellum made from animal hides.

Paper cannot hold a candle to animal skin as a writing surface, and the fact that it is still in use today is a testament to that. It is however very expensive, costing upwards of $400-$500 for a full sheet (i.e. a full calf's worth) of vellum, and writing on vellum is difficult, especially if you are trying to create a presentation piece because the only way to erase is to scrape off the skin, and that doesn't look good - you cannot make a mistake.

So not only was it common practice to write documents on vellum/parchment back then, just as it still is in the UK, it was also about durability. The Declaration, unless it is destroyed, will last thousands of years because it is written on animal skin. If it were paper, it would degrade at a much faster rate.


Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?

I n the past few days you may well have scribbled out a shopping list on the back of an envelope or stuck a Post-it on your desk. Perhaps you added a comment to your child’s report book or made a few quick notes during a meeting. But when did you last draft a long text by hand? How long ago did you write your last “proper” letter, using a pen and a sheet of writing paper? Are you among the increasing number of people, at work, who are switching completely from writing to typing?

No one can say precisely how much handwriting has declined, but in June a British survey of 2,000 people gave some idea of the extent of the damage. According to the study, commissioned by Docmail, a printing and mailing company, one in three respondents had not written anything by hand in the previous six months. On average they had not put pen to paper in the previous 41 days. People undoubtedly write more than they suppose, but one thing is certain: with information technology we can write so fast that handwritten copy is fast disappearing in the workplace.

In the United States they have already made allowance for this state of affairs. Given that email and texting have replaced snail mail, and that students take notes on their laptops, “cursive” writing – in which the pen is not raised between each character – has been dropped from the Common Core Curriculum Standards, shared by all states. Since 2013 American children have been required to learn how to use a keyboard and write in print. But they will no longer need to worry about the up and down strokes involved in “joined-up” writing, less still the ornamental loops on capitals.

This reform prompted lively controversy. In an editorial published on 4 September 2013, the Los Angeles Times hailed a step forward. “States and schools shouldn’t cling to cursive based on the romantic idea that it’s a tradition, an art form or a basic skill whose disappearance would be a cultural tragedy. Of course, everyone needs to be able to write without computers, but longhand printing generally works fine […] Print is clearer and easier to read than script. For many, it’s easier to write and just about as fast.”

Some states, such as Indiana, have decided to go on teaching cursive writing in school. Without this skill, they assert, young Americans will no longer be able to read birthday cards from their grandparents, comments by teachers on their assignments or the original, handwritten text of the constitution and the Declaration of Independence. “I have to tell you, I can’t remember the last time I read the constitution,” countered Steve Graham, a professor of education at Arizona State University.

This minor revolution is causing quite a stir but it is by no means the first of its kind. Ever since writing was most likely first invented, in Mesopotamia in about 4000BC, it has been through plenty of technological upheavals. The tools and media used for writing have changed many times: from Sumerian tablets to the Phoenician alphabet of the first millennium BC from the invention of paper in China about 1,000 years later to the first codex, with its handwritten sheets bound together to make a book from the invention of printing in the 15th century to the appearance of ballpoint pens in the 1940s.

So at first sight the battle between keyboards and pens might seem to be no more than the latest twist in a very long story, yet another new tool that we will end up getting used to. What really matters is not how we produce a text but its quality, we are often told. When we are reading, few of us wonder whether a text was written by hand or word-processed.

But experts on writing do not agree: pens and keyboards bring into play very different cognitive processes. “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought,” says Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva. “Children take several years to master this precise motor exercise: you need to hold the scripting tool firmly while moving it in such a way as to leave a different mark for each letter.”

Operating a keyboard is not the same at all: all you have to do is press the right key. It is easy enough for children to learn very fast, but above all the movement is exactly the same whatever the letter. “It’s a big change,” says Roland Jouvent, head of adult psychiatry at Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. “Handwriting is the result of a singular movement of the body, typing is not.”

Furthermore pens and keyboards use very different media. “Word-processing is a normative, standardised tool,” says Claire Bustarret, a specialist on codex manuscripts at the Maurice Halbwachs research centre in Paris. “Obviously you can change the page layout and switch fonts, but you cannot invent a form not foreseen by the software. Paper allows much greater graphic freedom: you can write on either side, keep to set margins or not, superimpose lines or distort them. There is nothing to make you follow a set pattern. It has three dimensions too, so it can be folded, cut out, stapled or glued.”

An electronic text does not leave the same mark as its handwritten counterpart either. “When you draft a text on the screen, you can change it as much as you like but there is no record of your editing,” Bustarret adds. “The software does keep track of the changes somewhere, but users cannot access them. With a pen and paper, it’s all there. Words crossed out or corrected, bits scribbled in the margin and later additions are there for good, leaving a visual and tactile record of your work and its creative stages.”

Handwritten copy is fast disappearing from the workplace. Photograph: Alamy

But does all this really change our relation to reading and writing? The advocates of digital documents are convinced it makes no difference. “What we want from writing – and what the Sumerians wanted – is cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts,” Anne Trubek, associate professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin College in Ohio, wrote some years ago. “This is what typing does for millions. It allows us to go faster, not because we want everything faster in our hyped-up age, but for the opposite reason: we want more time to think.”

Some neuroscientists are not so sure. They think that giving up handwriting will affect how future generations learn to read. “Drawing each letter by hand substantially improves subsequent recognition,” Gentaz explains.

Marieke Longchamp and Jean-Luc Velay, two researchers at the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Aix-Marseille University, have carried out a study of 76 children, aged three to five. The group that learned to write letters by hand were better at recognising them than the group that learned to type them on a computer. They repeated the experiment on adults, teaching them Bengali or Tamil characters. The results were much the same as with the children.

Drawing each letter by hand improves our grasp of the alphabet because we really have a “body memory”, Gentaz adds. “Some people have difficulty reading again after a stroke. To help them remember the alphabet again, we ask them to trace the letters with their finger. Often it works, the gesture restoring the memory.”

Although learning to write by hand does seem to play an important part in reading, no one can say whether the tool alters the quality of the text itself. Do we express ourselves more freely and clearly with a pen than with a keyboard? Does it make any difference to the way the brain works? Some studies suggest this may indeed be the case. In a paper published in April in the journal Psychological Science, two US researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, claim that note-taking with a pen, rather than a laptop, gives students a better grasp of the subject.

The study focused on more than 300 students at Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles. It suggested that students who took longhand notes were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop. For the scientists, the reason is clear: those working on paper rephrased information as they took notes, which required them to carry out a preliminary process of summarising and comprehension in contrast, those working on a keyboard tended to take a lot of notes, sometimes even making a literal transcript, but avoided what is known as “desirable difficulty”.

On the basic issue of handwriting France has chosen to take the opposite course from the US. In the early 2000s the ministry of education instructed schools to start teaching cursive writing when pupils entered primary school [aged six]. “For a long time we attached little importance to handwriting, which was seen as a fairly routine exercise,” says school inspector Viviane Bouysse. “But in 2000, drawing on work in the neurosciences, we realised that this learning process was a key step in cognitive development.”

“With joined-up writing children learn words as blocks of letters, which helps with spelling,” Bouysse explains. “It’s important in a country where spelling is so complex! However, the ornamental capitals in the patterns published in the 2013 exercise books have been simplified, with fewer loops and scrolls […] They are important, though, because they distinguish proper names or the start of a sentence.”

Some handwriting advocates regret the disappearance of these ornamental effects. “It’s not just a question of writing a letter: it also involves drawing, acquiring a sense of harmony and balance, with rounded forms,” Jouvent asserts. “There is an element of dancing when we write, a melody in the message, which adds emotion to the text. After all that’s why emoticons were invented, to restore a little emotion to text messages.”

Writing has always been seen as expressing our personality. In his books the historian Philippe Artières explained how doctors and detectives, in the late 19th and early 20th century, found signs of deviance among lunatics and delinquents, simply by examining the way they formed their letters. “With handwriting we come closer to the intimacy of the author,” Jouvent explains. “That’s why we are more powerfully moved by the manuscript of a poem by Verlaine than by the same work simply printed in a book. Each person’s hand is different: the gesture is charged with emotion, lending it a special charm.”

Which no doubt explains the narcissistic relationship we often entertain with our own scrawl.

Despite omnipresent IT, Gentaz believes handwriting will persist. “Touchscreens and styluses are taking us back to handwriting. Our love affair with keyboards may not last,” he says.

“It still plays an important part in everyday life,” Bustarret adds. “We write by hand more often than we think, if only to fill in forms or make a label for a jam jar. Writing is still very much alive in our surroundings – in advertising, signing, graffiti and street demonstrations.” Certainly the graphic arts and calligraphy are thriving.

Perhaps, in their way, they compensate for our soulless keyboards.

This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde


A woman’s name appears on the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence printed with the names of the signers. Mary Katherine Goddard’s name is at the bottom. (Library of Congress/Rare Book and Special Collections Division/Continental Congress & Constitutional Convention Broadsides Collection)

This Fourth of July, look closely at one of those printed copies of the Declaration of Independence.

See it? The woman’s name at the bottom?

It’s right there. Mary Katherine Goddard.

If you’ve never noticed it or heard of her, you aren’t alone. She’s a Founding Mother, of sorts, yet few folks know about her. And some of America’s earliest bureaucrats did their best to shut her down. Same old, same old.

Goddard was fearless her entire career as one of America’s first female publishers, printing scoops from Revolutionary War battles from Concord to Bunker Hill and continuing to publish after her offices were twice raided and her life was repeatedly threatened by haters.

Yup, she faced down the Twitter trolls of 1776.

In her boldest move, Goddard put her full name at the bottom of all the copies of the Declaration that her printing presses churned out and distributed to the colonies. It was the first copy young America would see that included the original signer’s names – and Congress commissioned her for the important job.

Mary Katherine Goddard on the cover of the Baltimore Almanack from 1783. (John Carter/Brown University)

Her fiery editorials, had, after all, set the tone for pivotal moments in the revolution.

“The ever memorable 19th of April gave a conclusive answer to the questions of American freedom,” she wrote in her Maryland Journal editorial after the start of the Revolutionary War. “What think ye of Congress now? That day. . . evidenced that Americans would rather die than live slaves!”

Until Goddard got the assignment from Congress to print and distribute copies of the Declaration, it was more like an anonymous internet post than a document of record.

Sure, there’s the famous original copy in Thomas Jefferson’s elegant penmanship.

Beautifully written, boldly stated, it was famously signed by the Founding Fathers on July 4th. But neither Americans nor the British saw that copy.

Instead, days and weeks later, they got a hastily-printed, mistake-laden, nearly anonymous document that was the 1776 version of the ALL CAPS EMAIL signed by PATRIOT1776. Signing your name to something like this was considered treason.

It was done on the night of that July 4, when the founders asked Irish immigrant John Dunlap to print 200 copies. The only names on it were John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson, who was listed as a witness. It was read to troops on the front lines and a copy was sent to England.

But without all the names of the founders, the Declaration was less devastating.

Goddard’s edition changed that.

And by including her name at the bottom, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katherine Goddard,” she became a patriot worth remembering.

Goddard wasn’t always so bold declaring her name.

When she ran the Baltimore newspaper that her brother had abandoned, she used the gender-neutral M.K. Goddard.

She was also quietly named the first female postmaster in the colonies in 1775, running the busy and crucial Baltimore Post Office as well as a bookstore, printshop and newspaper. At the time, Congress was meeting just down the street from her office. So she was basically the pipeline for a lot of information during our nation’s founding years – her little shop was a combination Washington Post, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from 1775 to 1784. (It’s now a Rite Aid.)

Goddard may have been an early version of The Post’s Katharine Graham, but she wasn’t the only woman who made history running America’s free press.

In 1739, Elizabeth Timothy took over the South Carolina Gazette after her husband died, also taking over his partnership with Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin said the Widow Timothy was far more skilled at business than her husband had been. “Her accounts were clearer, she collected on more bills, and she cut off advertisements if payments were not current,” Franklin said according to Kay Mills in A Place in the News.

Goddard eventually lost her job as publisher after her brother married and returned to Baltimore in 1784, taking over the Maryland Journal and ousting his sister.

But she was still the Baltimore postmaster, and ran that office with efficiency and aplomb for a total of 14 years until the newly appointed national Postmaster General moved to replace her with someone with no experience, one of his political pals.

U.S. Postmaster Samuel Osgood said he didn’t think a woman could handle all the travel associated with the job, that she didn’t have the, ahem, stamina. Remember, it’s a job she’d successfully done – along with publishing a newspaper and printing the Declaration of Independence – for more than a decade.

The folks who knew her were outraged and more than 200 merchants and residents in Baltimore sent the postmaster a petition asking to keep her in place. But Osgood held firm and though Goddard fought for reinstatement for years, it was to no avail.

She continued to run her bookstore in Baltimore until her death in 1816.

On this Independence Day, let’s also celebrate the story of a forgotten patriot who used the power of the press to help build this nation.


Advertisement

Instead, days and weeks later, they got a hastily-printed, mistake-laden, nearly anonymous document that was the 1776 version of the ALL CAPS EMAIL signed by PATRIOT1776. Signing your name to something like this was considered treason.

It was done on the night of that July 4, when the founders asked Irish immigrant John Dunlap to print 200 copies. The only names on it were John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson, who was listed as a witness. It was read to troops on the front lines and a copy was sent to England.

But without all the names of the founders, the Declaration was less devastating.

Goddard’s edition changed that.

And by including her name at the bottom, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katherine Goddard,” she became a patriot worth remembering.


But If You Don’t Learn Cursive, How Will You Read the Declaration of Independence in the Original?

If pen retailers and state legislators are to be believed, cursive handwriting is facing an existential threat. Since the advent of the Common Core standards&mdashwhich emphasize keyboard skills over nicely shaped P’s and Q’s&mdashit’s been common knowledge for years that teachers are abandoning cursive in droves, spending classroom time instead on new technology and typing.

But lately, fancy handwriting is having somewhat of a comeback. Louisiana’s governor signed a law in June requiring cursive instruction all the way through grade 12. Mississippi’s education department recently added script to its standards. And starting this school year, third graders in Alabama are required to write legibly in cursive under the newly passed Lexi’s Law. State Rep. Dickie Drake named the Alabama bill after his granddaughter, who told him when she was in first grade that she wanted to learn “real writing.”

The jury is still out on whether learning script, not just print, improves children’s cognition. (There’s little proof to date that it does.) Meanwhile, scientists are inching closer to handwriting’s true existential threat: a mind-reading machine that turns thoughts into written language via a “brain to text” interface. Here’s a primer on how the technology and culture of handwriting has evolved over time.

With stylus and clay tablets, ancient Mesopotamians create abstract symbols to represent syllables of their spoken language.

Quill pens and parchment paper take hold in Europe. Drippy ink discourages pen lifting, hence cursive.

Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press forces scribes to pivot to teaching penmanship.

A popular copybook by George Bickham teaches farmers and merchants to write in a “round” hand. Gentlemen of the era employ an italic script, while accomplished women practice “ladies’ roman.” (In general, only fairly well-off white males are taught to write.)

South Carolina’s Negro Act makes it a crime to teach slaves to write: “Suffering them to be employed in writing may be attended with great inconveniences.” Other colonies (and later, states) follow suit.

John Hancock’s “John Hancock” appears prominently on the Declaration of Independence.

Educator Platt Rogers Spencer urges pupils to contemplate nature’s curves while learning his ornate script, soon to be the hand of choice for merchants (including Ford and Coca-Cola) and schools in most states.

Denmark’s Rasmus Malling-Hansen introduces the first commercial typewriter, the Hansen Writing Ball.

Alonzo Cross’ patented “stylographic pen” holds its own ink.

Irish immigrant John Robert Gregg invents a shorthand method that will eventually be taught in countless US high schools.

With handwriting under threat by typewriters, Austin Palmer introduces a smaller, faster writing style, taught via militaristic “drills.” His 1912 textbook on the Palmer Method sells more than 1 million copies. (Spen­cerian script is history.)

French psychologist Alfred Binet popularizes handwriting analysis as a window into the writer’s traits. He goes on to invent the IQ test.

Congress greenlights the use of handwriting as forensic evidence in court.

The man convicted (and later executed) based on ransom notes for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby laments, “Dat handwriting is the worstest thing against me.”

László József Bíró markets the first ballpoint pen.

The Bic ballpoint hits US stores, turning pens&mdashonce luxury goods&mdashinto a cheap commodity.

The signature of US Treasurer Elizabeth Rudel Smith on paper currency invites public scorn: Her “t”s are “crossed belatedly, like a feminine afterthought,” snarks a Chicago Tribune writer. The New York Times seizes on the occasion to bemoan the “lost art of handwriting.”

From a Louisiana poll test: “Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write.”

A pen makers’ trade group launches National Handwriting Day even as PC makers including Apple and Commodore begin selling the computer keyboards that presage handwriting’s slow, inevitable decline.

The National Council of Teachers of English condemns the practice of making naughty kids write lines, because it “causes students to dislike an activity necessary to their intellectual development and career success.”

Researchers claim they’ve debunked the “conventional wisdom” that doctors have worse handwriting than other health professionals do.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles urges “handwriting-challenged” MDs to take a penmanship class, even as a key medical journal blasts handwritten case notes as “a dinosaur long overdue for extinction.”

First-class mail usage hits its peak&mdashonly to plummet 40 percent by 2015.

Common Core standards, soon to be adopted by most states, emphasize early typing skills but make no mention of cursive. Parents and educators flip out. “They’re not teaching cursive writing,” conservative TV host Glenn Beck thunders, “because the easiest way to make somebody a slave is dumb them down.”

Scientists find that the brains of preliterate kids respond like a reader’s brain when they write their ABCs, but not when they type or trace the letters another research team reports that college students who transcribed lectures on their laptops recalled more information than those who took notes by hand.

Bic launches a “Fight For Your Write” campaign&mdash”because writing makes us all awesome!”

2016 Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama mandate instruction of handwriting in public schools. Without it, supporters argue, kids wouldn’t be able to sign their names or read the Constitution. Over at Motherboard, Kaleigh Rogers counters that cursive needs to “join its former companion&mdashthe quill and inkwell&mdashin the annals of history where it belongs.”



Comments:

  1. Thoraldtun

    I have thought and have removed the message

  2. Rohan

    I believe that you are wrong. Let's discuss.



Write a message