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Declaration of Independence [manuscript copy] handwritten copy by John Adams, before 28 June 1776

Declaration of Independence [manuscript copy] handwritten copy by John Adams, before 28 June 1776

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    On 11 June 1776, Congress appointed a committee of five to draft a formal declaration of independence: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. In his Autobiography, Adams wrote that he and Jefferson were members of a subcommittee, and that he pressed the chore upon his younger colleague for a variety of political and personal reasons; Jefferson simply said that he was chosen by the committee as a whole to draft the document. Scholars now generally agree that Jefferson showed his draft first to Adams and then to Franklin before he presented it to the entire committee. On 2 July 1776, once the resolution on independence passed, Congress turned immediately to the Declaration itself and the committee of the whole considered its language.

    At an early stage of the revisions, before it was even presented to the committee of five, Adams copied the entire document. The Adams copy is extremely important for demonstrating the evolution of the text from Jefferson's "original Rough draught," as he called it, which exists now only as a much marked-up document, to the Declaration so familiar today.

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