In the early summer of 1776, the British were still in control of America. The taxation was out of control, decrees were being brought down to bare against the colonists, and Britain’s mighty Red Coats were marching the streets day and night. One could lay in bed before sleep came about and hear the clicking of heels and shouts of orders by these red coats.
A year earlier with Britain taking control of most things in the colonies, many brave men got together and decided on the Declaration of the Causes and of the Necessity of Taking up Arms. As its title implies, it was a justification for armed resistance to England’s abusive treatment of the colonies, with a chronicle of outstanding grievances.
With the events at Lexington and Concord already three months old, Congress adopted the resolution in Philadelphia on July 6th 1775. It’s no secret that the Crown’s lack of movement would precipitate the Declaration of Independence the following year. The rather obvious, but critical, difference was that the Declaration of Causes merely threatened King George III with colonial independence while the Declaration of Independence severed ties unequivocally. As for Dickinson’s role in it, contrary to some sources he did not actually vote against the Declaration of Independence. He simply remained absent while Congress voted on it. What’s more, he subsequently played an active political and military role in the colonial cause.
On June 11,Thomas Jefferson was appointed to a five-man committee–alongside John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York–that was charged with drafting a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. Jefferson was the only southerner on the committee, and had arrived in Philadelphia accompanied by three of his many slaves. Still, it was he who was given the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence, which would become the foremost statement of human liberty and equality ever written. According to an account Jefferson wrote in 1823, the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections…I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”