The day that Continental Congress voted for independence was July 2, not July 4. They debated Thomas Jefferson’s document for two days before agreeing to the final version on July 4, when it was also read to the public for the first time.

On July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that “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.”

The document wasn’t signed by members of the congress until Aug. 2, and some members didn’t sign until months later.

The vote for independence was not unanimous. Only 12 of the 13 state delegations to the Continental Congress voted for declaring independence. New York abstained. (The colony eventually supported the measure a week later).

Declaration of Independence

Are our rights “unalienable” or “inalienable?” The final version of the Declaration uses “unalienable,” whereas Jefferson’s handwritten draft uses “inalienable.” Actually, it doesn’t matter. Both are correct and both mean the same thing.

The beautifully handwritten and signed copy that we all recognize as the Declaration of Independence wasn’t physically written by Jefferson, but, historians believe, by Timothy Matlack. Matlack became a member of the Second Continental Congress.

Is there anything on the back of the document? Yes. It reads, upside down, “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.”

In the original draft, Jefferson, a slave owner, lists the commerce of slavery as one of the violations that justify a break from England. The passage was stripped from the final version at the demand of the southern states, who would not vote for independence otherwise.

Britain didn’t learn of her colonies’ new-found independence until Aug. 30, 1776.