On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution to the Second Continental Congress that proposed independence for the American colonies. This was known as the Lee Resolution. Its three parts included a declaration of independence, a call to form foreign alliances and a plan for confederation.
The Lee Resolution stated: "That these United Colonies are, and of right out 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; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together."
Debate following the resolution revealed that six colonies were not yet willing to break their ties with England and, as a result, Congress decided to delay the vote on the Lee Resolution. In the interim, a committee drafted a formal declaration of independence; Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of this document. On July 1, debate resumed regarding the Lee Resolution. Because Congress wanted a unanimous vote, they delayed the vote again until July 2, when 12 colonies voted in favor, with New York abstaining. Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4 because this is the day the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted.