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Pennsylvania Magazine, June 1776, Prints July 2, 1776 Resolution Declaring Independence - One of Only Two Contemporary Publications (SOLD)
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“July 2. this day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.”

Among the first printed notices of the Declaration of Independence’s passage, The Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum, edited by Thomas Paine, held the June issue past its July 3 publication date, allowing notice of this important Congressional action to appear.

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum. For June 1776. Philadelphia: R. Aitken, [ca. July 4-6, 1776]. [249]-296 (48 pp.), 5¼ x 8¼ in., lacking fold out map.

Inventory #23750.01       SOLD — please inquire about other items

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Historical Background

The Pennsylvania Magazine was founded by Robert Aitken, best known for his printing work for the Continental Congress. Aitken singlehandedly launched the periodical in January 1775, but soon hired Thomas Paine, who had arrived in America in December 1774, as editor. Paine also became a major contributor, sometimes using the initials, “A.B.,” and other times with no by-line, on topics as varied as Revolutionary War politics and descriptions of inventions. However, Aitken was never willing to pay Paine reasonably, and it is believed that he quit before the publication of this issue.

Normally, the June issue would have been published too late to include any news from July.  But, a temporary paper shortage left just enough time for the last-minute addition of momentous news: “July 2. this day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.”

The editor explains the delay that allowed that inclusion: “To our Correspondents. Hermes came too late for insertion this month. Our customers will excuse us, though the day of publication be sometimes delayed: The great difficulty we have procuring printing paper, renders it impossible for us to publish always on the first Wednesday of the month.”

The scheduled publication date was July 3rd.  This is one of the first reports of the break with England found in any publication, likely printed on July 4 or 5. (The Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the resolution on the night of July 2; we know of no other publication at the time.) Had the Pennsylvania Magazine been slightly further delayed, it likely would have been able to include the full text or at least mention of the July 4 Declaration. Instead, that appeared in the July issue, which was printed either at the end of July or the first few days of August.

In the column immediately preceding the news, the text of Pennsylvania’s own declaration of independence reads in part: “Whereas George the Third... in violation of the principles of the British constitution, and of the laws of justice and humanity... We the DEPUTIES of the people of Pennsylvania, assembled in FULL Provisional Conference for forming a plan for the executing the resolve of Congress of the 15th of May last, for suppressing all authority in this province derived from the crown of Great-Britain, and for establishing a government upon the authority of the people only, DO in this public manner... UNANIMOUSLY declare our willingness to concur in a vote of the Congress declaring the United Colonies free and independent STATES....”

Historic Background

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress, proposed a resolution calling for American independence. The Congress appointed a Committee of Five – John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson – to draft an appropriate message. Written by Jefferson, with minor edits by Franklin and Adams, the draft was submitted to Congress on June 28.

Not all in Congress favored independence. George Read of Delaware voted against Lee’s resolution. Thomas McKean, another Delaware delegate, sent a message to Caesar Rodney (the third member of the Delaware delegation) to come quickly to Philadelphia to break their state’s tie. The 47-year-old Rodney received the dispatch on July 1 and proceeded to ride 80 miles non-stop from his home near Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia. He arrived just in time to make the vote on Tuesday, July 2, 1776, when the Continental Congress took a decisive step by passing Lee’s resolution “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” With this brief resolution, the 13 colonies severed their imperial bond with Great Britain.

The importance of the Congressional action was trumpeted by John Adams when, on Wednesday, July 3, he wrote to his wife Abigail that he considered July 2 the date of independence:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

In another letter of the same date, Adams again discussed the resolution for independence:

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed....You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution.

In the two days following the resolution of independence, Congress continued to struggle with the wording of the final Declaration. Though some revisions were made (in particular, striking the provision calling for abolition of the slave trade), it remained essentially Jefferson’s prose. On Thursday, July 4, the delegates of 12 of the 13 states agreed to the final text of the Declaration, pledging “to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to uphold its principles. The approved manuscript, now lost, was no doubt signed by Continental Congress president John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson. It was then taken to printer John Dunlap, we believe by John Adams. The first newspaper printing of the Declaration was the July 6, 1776 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post published by Benjamin Towne, we believe based on a manuscript supplied by Thomas Jefferson. (For details on our reasoning, see our catalog of the July 6, 1776 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post.) Dunlap’s paper, the Pennsylvania Packet, didn’t print the Declaration until July 8th.


A rare and important imprint. Stab-stitched, disbound; some small marginal chips well clear of text; overall very good to fine condition.