Who Wrote the Declaration of Independence?



The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson was not then credited with its authorship.


By Matthew Wills


The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. We now credit Thomas Jefferson with the Declaration’s authorship, but that was not the case on that momentous day, nor for a significant time afterwards.

The document was drafted by a committee made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Jefferson, recognized for his ability with words, wrote the first draft; then it was edited by the others, and then edited again by the whole Congress. Fifty-six members of Congress signed it (one of them as late as November).

So how did Jefferson, “initially anonymous as the penman of the Declaration, gain renown as its author?”

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