Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Debating the Declaration of Independence

Lead Scholar: Holly Brewer (Fellow, 2009–10)

October 27, 2015

When the delegates to the Continental Congress assembled in June of 1776, they faced a deepening dilemma. Fighting between colonists and British troops had been going on for more than a year. Some delegates argued for independence; others sought peace and reconciliation with the king. In the first poll only seven of the thirteen colonies supported independence. The delegates chose a committee to write a rationale that would persuade the recalcitrant six. The drafting was led by the idealistic thirty-three year-old Thomas Jefferson, who, in consultation with his colleagues, wrote, scratched out, and wrote again. More than two centuries later Jefferson’s dark scratches reveal much about the thoughts of those who composed the Declaration and about a history we have forgotten. A draft of the Declaration’s last section condemned the king’s support of slavery across the empire. Congress deleted it. Why? Join us to learn how this deletion and other revisions helped shape the impact of the Declaration’s principles.

Subjects: Political Science; History; Thirteen Colonies; American History; American Revolution