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July 16, 2014

On Friday June 7, 1776 Richard Henry Lee presented the following resolution to the Continental Congress:

That these United Colonies are & 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 & the state of Great Britain is &
ought to be, totally dissolved.

Congress postponed the final vote until early July. Meanwhile, a committee of five was appointed to write a proposed Declaration of Independence. The other four members of the committee, which included John Adams and Ben Franklin, agreed that Thomas Jefferson should write the first draft.

Jefferson had taken his seat in Congress on May 13, exactly one week after “Delegates and Representatives of the several Counties and Corporations of Virginia” had assembled to write a new constitution for his home state. He was missing his chance to be part of that discussion. Now, between June 11 and 28 Jefferson sat at a desk in Philadelphia writing the founding document of the entire nation. Surely that was consolation enough.

Still, Jefferson wanted the folks back home to consider some of his ideas before they voted. The Virginia Constitution was passed on June 29, 1776, and its preamble is remarkably similar to the list of grievances Jefferson made against King George in the Declaration of Independence.

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