The delegates of the Second Continental Congress sit, pace, and sweat in Philadelphia. It is June, 1776 and the different faces of the colonies are struggling to become united in vision, plan, and action. Members of congress know soldiers are weakening, yet more fight is needed. They ask, “What can be done to rally our troops?” If I could travel back in time, I would join with those who risked their lives to answer this question with a written document that could also act as evidence of their treason. I would stand side by side with the founding fathers as they embarked upon writing the Declaration of Independence which articulated, without compromise, the American dream for all.

The Declaration of Independence was written when the colonies were already deep at war with Britain, the world’s most terrifying and advanced adversary. The first “Hurrah!” had sounded many months before, and the soldiers’ confidence and energy was beginning to wane. The declaration shines as a beacon of hope, a way to bring everyone back to the point of determination and pride present when the war began. The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of five men; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. These five men represented five colonies, had five different writing styles, and five different personalities. Franklin, the well known bard of American lore; Jefferson, a quiet academic; Adams, a loud and opinionated patriot who prided himself on being disliked; Livingston, a farmer and lawyer; and Sherman, the man who Thomas Jefferson said “never said a foolish thing in his life.” Early on, the committee decided that Thomas Jefferson would take the lead on writing the declaration. Jefferson was the most accomplished writer of the group and the most widely liked. On June 11, 1776 Jefferson hid from the public and began writing. On June 28, 1776, only seventeen days later, Jefferson had produced a document of such depth, wisdom, and clarity, which could have taken a lifetime. The Congressional Committee revised the Declaration and submitted it to the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, refined the Declaration, and released the document to the public amid grand celebrations on Independence Day.

As a writer and an American, I love this point in history. The Declaration of Independence is among the best known documents of our nation and the world. Five men accepted the task of writing a document that would declare objective truths in a way that inspired their countrymen and affronted the enemy. Perhaps the committee did not grasp the significance of the task before them. I believe that they did. Based on their knowledge of the significance of their roles in history, they produced more than a mere declaration. The Declaration of Independence rallied the troops in 1776 and continues to rally the hearts, minds, and actions of those seeking freedom.

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May 7, 2010