November 13, 2018
How the Declaration of Independence Was Heard Around the World
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
This phrase written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 has been called "the most potent and consequential words in American history." But how did the word get out that the American colonies were now the United States of America?
After Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration on July 4, a handwritten copy was sent to the printing shop of John Dunlap. Overnight, Dunlap printed some 200 broadsides for distribution. The first formal public readings of the document took place on July 8th, in the yard of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Evening Post had the honor of being the first newspaper to publish it on July 6th.
John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, wrote letters that accompanied the Dunlap broadside, calling on the states to proclaim the Declaration “in such a Manner, that the People may be universally informed of it.” Massachusetts directed that the Declaration be read aloud after Sunday services in churches. Virginia and Maryland had it read to the gatherings of people at county court days. Hancock instructed Gen. George Washington to read it to his troops in New York. He did so before several brigades of the Continental Army, with the British in view on nearby Staten Island and on ships in the harbor. After hearing the Declaration, crowds in many cities tore down and destroyed signs or statues representing royal authority.
British officials in North America sent copies of the Declaration to Great Britain and British newspapers published it in August. Copies of the Declaration reached Florence and Warsaw by mid-September. A German translation appeared in Switzerland by October. The first copy of the Declaration sent to France got lost, and the second copy arrived only in November 1776. Over the next several month and years, the Declaration would make its way around the world, translated into local languages. Today the Declaration is honored during National American History and Founders Month.
Did You Know …
A German translation of the Declaration was published in Philadelphia by July 9?