Lee Resolution

Lee Resolution

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The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 declaring the United Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 to be independent of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

 of Virginia first proposed it on June 7, 1776, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton
Edmund Pendleton
Edmund Pendleton was a Virginia politician, lawyer and judge, active in the American Revolutionary War. -Early years:...

 (in fact Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution). Voting on the resolution was delayed for several weeks while support for independence was consolidated. On June 11, a Committee of Five
Committee of Five
The Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress drafted and presented to the Congress what became known as America's Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776...

 was appointed to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The resolution was finally approved on July 2, 1776, and news of its adoption was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette
The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States' most prominent newspapers from 1728, before the time period of the American Revolution, until 1815...

. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, was approved on July 4.

Towards independence


When the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 began in 1775, few colonists in British North America openly advocated independence from Great Britain. Support for independence grew steadily in 1776, especially after the publication of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

's pamphlet Common Sense
Common Sense (pamphlet)
Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed "Written by an Englishman", became an immediate success. In relation to the population of the Colonies at that time, it had the largest...

in January of that year. In the Second Continental Congress, the movement towards independence was guided principally by an informal alliance of delegates eventually known as the "Adams-Lee Junto", after Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 and John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 of Massachusetts and Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

 of Virginia.

On May 15, 1776, the revolutionary Virginia Convention
Virginia Conventions
The Virginia Conventions were a series of five political meetings in the Colony of Virginia during the American Revolution. Because the House of Burgesses had been dissolved in 1774 by Royal Governor Lord Dunmore, the conventions served as a revolutionary provisional government until the...

, then meeting in Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is an independent city located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of Virginia, USA. As of the 2010 Census, the city had an estimated population of 14,068. It is bordered by James City County and York County, and is an independent city...

, passed a resolution instructing Virginia's delegates in the Continental Congress "to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain". In accordance with those instructions, on June 7, Richard Henry Lee presented the resolution to Congress. The resolution, seconded by John Adams, had three parts:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and 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 and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.



That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.



That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.



Congress as a whole was not yet ready to declare independence, however, because the delegates from some of the colonies, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, had not yet been authorized to vote for independence. Voting on the first clause of Lee's resolution was therefore postponed for three weeks while advocates of independence worked to build support in the colonial governments for the resolution. Meanwhile, a Committee of Five
Committee of Five
The Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress drafted and presented to the Congress what became known as America's Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776...

 was appointed to prepare a formal declaration so that it would be ready when independence, which almost everyone recognized was now inevitable, was approved. The committee prepared a declaration of independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, and presented it to Congress on June 28, 1776.

Approval and declaration


The declaration was set aside while the resolution of independence was debated for several days. On July 2, the resolution of independence was approved by twelve of the thirteen colonies. Delegates from New York still lacked instructions to vote for independence, and so they abstained
Abstention
Abstention is a term in election procedure for when a participant in a vote either does not go to vote or, in parliamentary procedure, is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. Abstention must be contrasted with "blank vote", in which a voter casts a ballot willfully made invalid by...

 on this vote, although on July 9 the New York Provincial Congress
New York Provincial Congress
The New York Provincial Congress was an organization formed by rebels in 1775, during the American Revolution, as a pro-rebellion alternative to the more conservative Province of New York Assembly, and as a replacement for the Committee of One Hundred.A Provincial Convention assembled in New York...

 would vote to "join with the other colonies in supporting" independence.

Although it would shortly be outshone by the much more famous declaration, the Lee Resolution's passage was contemporaneously reported as the colonies' definitive declaration of independence from Great Britain. The evening of July 2, the Pennsylvania Evening Post reported:
This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.


The Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette
The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States' most prominent newspapers from 1728, before the time period of the American Revolution, until 1815...

 followed suit the next day with its own brief report:
Yesterday, the
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE and
INDEPENDENT STATES.


After passing the resolution of independence on July 2, Congress turned its attention to the text of the declaration. Over several days of debate, Congress made a number of alterations to the text, including adding the wording of Lee's resolution of independence to the conclusion. The final text of the declaration was approved by Congress on July 4 and sent off to be printed.

John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 wrote his wife Abigail
Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, who was the second President of the United States, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth...

 on July 3 about the resolution of independence:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.


Adams's prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated Independence Day
Independence Day (United States)
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 on July 4, the date the much-publicized Declaration of Independence was approved, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was adopted.

The latter two parts of the June resolution were not passed until months later. The second part regarding the formation of foreign alliances was approved in September 1776, and the third part regarding a plan of confederation was passed in November 1777.

Congressional journal entries


The following are entries relating to the resolution of independence and the Declaration of Independence in the Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, from American Memory
American Memory
American Memory is an Internet-based archive for public domain image resources, as well as audio, video, and archived Web content. It is published by the Library of Congress...

, published by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

:
  • Friday, June 7, "certain resolutions respecting independency" are moved and seconded; discussion set for Saturday
  • Saturday, June 8, Congress considers the resolutions but postpones a decision
  • Monday, June 10, Congress postpones the first of Lee's resolutions for three weeks, but appoints "a committee to prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution".
  • Friday, June 28, the committee reports its draft of the declaration, which is ordered "To lie on the table."
  • Monday, July 1, Congress begins "to take into consideration the resolution respecting independency"
  • Tuesday, July 2, Congress agrees to the resolution, begins to consider the declaration
  • Wednesday, July 3, further consideration of the declaration
  • Thursday, July 4, the Declaration of Independence is approved. The text of the Declaration on this day's entry of the published Journal, as well as the list of signatures, is copied from the engrossed version of the Declaration, which was created and signed at a later date. This misleading entry is one origin of the popular myth that the Declaration had been signed on July 4.
  • Monday, July 15, Congress learns that New York now supports independence
  • Friday, July 19, Congress orders that the Declaration "be fairly engrossed on parchment"
  • Friday, August 2, the Declaration of Independence is signed by members of Congress

External links

  • Text of Lee's Resolution from the Avalon Project
    Avalon Project
    The Avalon Project is a digital library of documents relating to law, history and diplomacy. The project is part of the Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library....

     at Yale Law School
    Yale Law School
    Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

  • Lee Resolution (1776), one of the "100 milestone documents" of the Our Documents initiative, published by the U.S. government
  • Lee Resolution from Footnote.com featuring a comment function.
  • Presentation of the Lee Resolution from National Archives and Records Administration as part of their Charters of Freedom presentation of the Declaration of Independence.