Episode 141: A Declaration in Draft

The Declaration of Independence stands first in a series of documents that founded the United States. It also stands as an early step in the long process of establishing a free, independent, and self-governing nation. Since 1776, more than 100 nation-states and freedom organizations have used the Declaration of Independence as a model for their own declarations and proclamations of independence.

Given the Declaration of Independence’s important place in the hearts and minds of peoples around the world, we need to go behind its parchment and explore just how the Declaration of Independence came to be.

In this preview episode of the Doing History: To the Revolution! series, we explore how the Second Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence.

About the Series

The mission of episodes in the Doing History: To the Revolution series is to ask not just “what is the history of the American Revolution?” but “what are the histories of the American Revolution?”

Episodes in this series will air beginning in September 2017.

The Doing History series explores early American history and how historians work. It’s produced by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Be sure to check out Doing History season 1, Doing History: How Historians Work.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

In this episode, we speak with Danielle Allen, Patrick Spero, and Peter Onuf and go behind the parchment of the Declaration of Independence.

During our exploration, these scholars reveal why the Second Continental Congress needed a declaration of independence; who Congress elected to serve on its declaration drafting committee; And, the influence John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson had on the ideas and language of the Declaration of Independence.

What You’ll Discover

  • The purpose of the Declaration of Independence
  • The process of declaring independence
  • Partnership between John Adams and Richard Henry Lee
  • The Committee of Five
  • John Adams’ qualifications for serving on the Declaration Committee
  • How Thomas Jefferson came to draft the first draft of the Declaration of Independence
  • The influence of earlier political writings in the Declaration
  • The intellectual relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
  • John Adams’ influence on the Declaration of Independence
  • What influenced John Adams’ ideas about government
  • Why Benjamin Franklin served on the congressional committee to draft a Declaration of Independence
  • Franklin’s service on the Committee of Five
  • Franklin’s experience in London and how it contributed to the Declaration
  • Franklin’s experience in Pennsylvania politics and how it contributed to the Declaration
  • Franklin’s contributions to the Declaration of Independence
  • What Jefferson may have thought about Franklin’s suggested edits
  • Why Thomas Jefferson served on the Declaration drafting committee
  • Jefferson’s work on the Declaration to Take Up Arms Committee
  • Why Jefferson drafted the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence
  • Jefferson’s strategy for drafting the Declaration
  • The grievances within the Declaration of Independence
  • Why Congress addressed the Declaration to King George III
  • What influenced Jefferson’s views on government
  • Congressional edits to Jefferson’s draft


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