Some facts you might not know about the Declaration of Independence:
-Most historians now accept that the document was adopted on July 4, 1776, but was not actually signed until August 2 of the same year.
-The Declaration was ratified by only 12 of the 13 colonies; New York abstained from voting.
-The original motion to debate independence from Great Britain was put forth by delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.
-Most people didn't know that Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence until 1790; until then, the public believed it was a collaborative effort of the 2nd Continental Congress.
-John Adams, one of the most vocal and active men in the cause of independence from Great Britain, actually first gained public notice by defending a group of British soldiers held responsible for the Boston Massacre in 1770. He successfully got them acquitted by a jury of Bostonians who might have gladly seen them hung if not for Adams' arguments.
-John Dickinson was the only delegate not to sign the declaration. He was vocally opposed to independence, and almost succeeded in striking the motion down forever. He went on to fight in the Continental Army.
-Thomas Jefferson originally penned a passage in the Declaration of Independence calling for abolition of slavery, but it was later struck from the document before ratification. Jefferson himself was a slave holder for most of his life. Most of his slaves were sold to pay his debts just a few years before his death, along with his entire library of thousands of books. His library became the foundation for the Library of Congress.
-The ideas that were the foundation of the Declaration of Independence actually came from a British philosopher, John Locke. His lines, that the natural rights of man included "life, liberty, and property" were changed to "life, liberty, and the pursut of happiness". Many more of his ideas are found in the words of the declaration as well; Jefferson was a great fan of his.