What Is the Background History of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence?

Although the signing of the Declaration of Independence officially announced the independence of the American colonies from Britain in 1776, the journey to the signing of the document took political maneuvering and contentious debate amongst the representatives of the Second Continental Congress. In June 1776, a few colonies voted in favor of independence, and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia motioned at the Second Continental Congress for full independence for the colonies.

The delegates of the convention appointed a five-man committee to write a formal statement of independence. Thomas Jefferson drafted the document and the committee submitted it to Congress for review and approval on July 1, 1776. Although 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor, it would take two more days of revisions and alterations before the delegates agreed on the document. The official document adopted the document on July 4.

Not all the delegates signed the document. Those delegates present at the meetings who did not sign the document included John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York. Delegates not present who failed to sign the document included George Washington, who was busy leading the colonial army, and Virginia's governor, Patrick Henry.