Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

A chronology of the drafting, adoption, and initial publication of the nation’s founding document.


3 - 12


Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History


Voting on the Declaration of Independence

After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House.

Painting by Robert Edge Pine
After much debate, the Second Continental Congress ultimately agreed to the Declaration of Independence, and then signed it on August 2, 1776, in the Pennsylvania State House.
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The 4th of July is a special time in history. It is when the United States chose to become its own country in 1776. On this date, an important paper was approved by U.S. leaders. It is known as the Declaration of Independence. Its history deserves a closer look.

Trouble with England

Before George Washington was president, the United States was ruled by the king of England. The U.S. was 13 colonies of England. The colonies became upset with the way the king governed. The colonies chose lawmakers to help protect them. There were several battles between the colonies and England. Eventually, people wanted to break away from the king. They wanted the U.S. to have its own leaders and laws.

Writing an Important Paper

Lawmakers from the colonies formed a congress. In June 1776, Congress gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The lawmakers decided to write the Declaration of Independence. A declaration is a strong statement. It stated exactly why the U.S. wanted its own laws and leaders.

The men who worked on this declaration are often called the founders of the U.S. They included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. There were many edits and changes to the writing. It took time and careful teamwork to finish the declaration.

On July 1 the lawmakers looked it over. Many leaders were nervous about voting for it because they feared war with England. Leaders voted on the declaration. If it passed, the U.S. would stand against England. This took some time as different states made decisions. Some states were afraid to become independent. On July 2, the declaration passed. On July 4, 1776, lawmakers approved the last edits.

A Daring Signature

Even after this, there were more edits. It was printed several times. Lawmakers needed all of the states to settle on how it was written. Finally, the last edits were approved on July 9. The declaration was signed by the leaders on August 2nd. John Hancock was the head of these lawmakers. He had the biggest, boldest signature.

Signing this paper was serious. The leaders were daring to sign the declaration. These brave leaders could have lost their lives signing their names. Yet, this paper helped make the U.S. its own country.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

April 9, 2024

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