Who Was the Author of the Declaration of Independence?

Thomas Jefferson, right? It depends. At the time of the adoption of the Declaration of Indpendence by the 2nd Continental Congress in 1776, Jefferson was not recognized as the author. As Matthew Wills notes in his thought-provoking text “[t]he document was drafted by a committee made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Jefferson, recognized for his ability with words, wrote the first draft; then it was edited by the others, and then edited again by the whole Congress. Fifty-six members of Congress signed it (one of them as late as November).”

Wills’ argues that what mattered to the committee was that the Declaration of Independence be seen as a document of consensus for the 13 colonies.  The authority of the document was what mattered.

 

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