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Continental Congress Declares Independence – on July 2, 1776
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Due to a shortage of paper,The Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum, edited by Thomas Paine, held the June issue past its normal publication date (which would have been July 3rd), allowing time for the last-minute insertion of the actual resolution of Congress declaring independence. The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the only other contemporary publication of the resolution we have found, in their July 2 issue.

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum. Philadelphia, Pa., R. Aitken, June 1776 [published ca. July 4.] 48 pp., 5¼ x 8¼ in., without fold out map.

Inventory #26797.99       Price: $35,000

Historical Background
The Pennsylvania Magazine was founded by printer and bookseller Robert Aitken, who launched the periodical singlehandedly in January 1775, but soon hired Thomas Paine, who had only arrived in America in December 1774. As editor, Paine quickly became a major contributor, sometimes writing under the initials “A.B.,” and other times writing with no by-line. Paine wrote prolifically on many topics for the magazine, including Revolutionary War politics and even descriptions of inventions.

Due to a paper shortage, the June issue was slightly delayed. As it reported:

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 [July 3].

That left enough time for the last-minute addition of the news of Independence.

July 2. this day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

Likely appearing on July 4 or 5, this is one of the first reports of independence found in any publication. (The Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the resolution on the night of July 2; we know of no other publication at the time.) Had their paper delivery been delayed only a day or two more, theMagazine would have mentioned the July 4 Declaration of Independence. Instead, that appears in the July issue, which was printed in the first few days of August.

Other News
Making paper: “As Paper is become an article of considerable importance and scarcity, the following account of the manner of making paper in Japan, of the barks of shrubs and trees, may not be unacceptable to the public. From this t, perhaps, some American artists may discover a similar method of manufacturing that useful commodity.” (p259-62)

The colony of South Carolina breaks away from Britain and establishes its own government: “South Carolina In Congress, Whereas the British Parliament, claiming of late years a right to bind the North-American Colonies by law, in all cases whatsoever, have enacted statutes for raising a revenue in those colonies, and disposing of such revenue as they thought proper, without the consent, and against the will of the colonists....” The Resolution goes on to say that the British have incited unrest, taken the property of colonists, and killed and wounded many “to effect the ruin and destruction of the colonies.” (p289-93)

New York breaks away from Britain. A report headed, “In Provincial Congress, May 31,” details the separation of the Colony and election of new officials. (p294)

New Jersey resolves to stop paying the Colonial Governor, William Franklin. Lengthy report from Burlington with the Governor’s address and the Colonists’ reaction. (p294-95)

The Pennsylvania Delegation meeting in Philadelphia writes a Declaration against the King and England, proclaims itself independent, and resolves to raise companies of soldiers to defend its new freedom. (p296)

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 independentStates....” (p296)

Historical 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 primarily 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 thirteen 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, finally approved on Thursday July 4th. Some revisions were made (in particular, striking the provision calling for abolition of the slave trade), but it remained essentially Jefferson’s prose. The delegates of 12 of the 13 states agreed, 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 Thomsonbefore being 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. Dunlap’s own paper, thePennsylvania Packet, did not print the Declaration until July 8.

The Pennsylvania Magazine: Or, American Monthly Museum (1775-1776) was a monthly periodical published in Philadelphia by Robert Aitken (1735-1802) from January 1775 to July 1776. Thomas Paine contributed the lead article, “The Utility of This Work Evinced,” explaining his vision for the new magazine. Paine edited and continued to contribute to the magazine from February to July or August 1775. The magazine soon became the most successful periodical in America, providing news and literary fare. Many political pieces seem to be neutral, but they actually provide anti-British allegories of current events. Paine’s work on The Pennsylvania Magazine, sometimes under the pseudonyms Atlanticus or Esop, developed the literary style he used so effectively in Common Sense the following year. Paine and Aitken clashed over pay, and Paine left in the summer of 1775, leaving Aitken as editor starting in September 1775. The magazine closed after the July 1776 issue.

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