The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

On the Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day! To mark the occasion, a few digital highlights from our collections.

- The Dunlap Broadside: The first printing of the Declaration of Independence, created overnight on 4 July 1776. Copies of this broadside were read to announce independence in New York on 9 July and in Boston on 18 July. Only 26 copies of this broadside are known to exist (the 26th was recently discovered in the collections of the British National Archives). This is one of many important Declaration of Independence broadsides in the MHS collections.

- John Adams' Draft Copy of the Declaration of Independence: At some point during the drafting process, John Adams made this handwritten copy of the early Declaration of Independence (he may even have sent this copy home to Abigail). It shows the text at a middle stage, before the full Continental Congress had its way with the draft. In the Adams Family Papers.

- Thomas Jefferson's Manuscript Copy of the Declaration of Independence: A partial copy of an early version of the Declaration of Independence, in Jefferson's hand. Given to the MHS by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Washburn in 1893.

- John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776: In this letter, Adams predicts the great celebrations which would mark future Independence Days (but he suggests it will be 2 July, not 4 July, which would be so honored): "But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it 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." Congress voted for independence on 2 July, and approved the text of the Declaration two days later.

- Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21-22 July 1776: Here, Abigail describes hearing the Declaration read for the first time in Boston, on 18 July: "Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the Multitude into Kings Street to hear the proclamation for independance read and proclamed. Some Field peices with the Train were brought there, the troops appeard under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousand from the Country). When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was given to every word. As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyfull.Mr. Bowdoin then gave a  [illegible Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independance. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestage of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen."

permalink | Published: Saturday, 4 July, 2009, 12:30 PM


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