Why The Declaration of Independence Is Not The Declaration of Independence

Most Americans are unaware that the document Thomas Jefferson wrote and which was passed by Congress is not the actual declaration of independence.

Jefferson did not write a statement declaring independence. Rather, his document was a statement listing all of the reasons why the colonies had separated from Great Britain. In fact, the title of the document formally approved by the Congress had the title: "A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in General Congress assembled." It does not have the title: The Declaration of Independence.

Title Page of the original Declaration of Independence

Original Declaration of Independence

Title Page of the original Declaration of Independence

Congress felt it was not only important but also necessary that the colonies explain the reasons for their separation from England. Thus, Jefferson's document explained why independence was necessary, why secession from the British Empire was lawful.

Actually, the declaration of the colonies' separation from the mother country had already taken place two days earlier on July 2, 1776.

The actual declaration of independence was written by Richard Henry Lee, an active patriot and a respected member of Virginia's congressional delegation. That declaration took place when Congress adopted the Richard Henry Lee Resolution that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states....and that all political connection between them and The State of Great Britain is, and of right ought to be, totally dissolved.”

With this resolution on July 2, the colonies had officially severed their ties with Great Britain.

In a now-famous letter to his wife on the following day, John Adams predicted that the date of July 2 would become a great American holiday celebrated in future years. He did not foresee that Americans — including himself — would instead celebrate Independence Day on the date that Jefferson's document explaining the reasons for the separation was announced.

Four Things You Need to Know About The Declaration of Independence

  1. Why They Asked Jefferson To Write The First Draft
  2. How The Declaration of Independence Was Written
  3. Congress Deletes A Fourth of Jefferson's Text
  4. Why The Declaration of Independence Is Not The Declaration of Independence