I took a tour of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, USA, a while back, and my guide said that “the Declaration of Independence was signed in this room on July 4, 1776.” But he went on to explain that only one part of that statement was true. I love history, so standing merely a metre from where Thomas Jefferson had been seated in Independence Hall filled me with awe, and I thought perhaps I had misunderstood the man’s words. “It was not signed that day,” the guide said. “There was a war going on; they had more important things to deal with.”
On July 2 (and not the fourth), Congress unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence. But the vote was for a much altered document, with multiple passages crossed out, some words added and numerous corrections. It was definitely not suitable for framing or public display. The final draft was presented to Congress on July 4, which they then ratified as correct. On July 19, Congress ordered final “engrossed” copy, that is, one written in a large, clear hand. That’s the one on display at the National Archives, but this final copy wasn’t actually signed until August 2.
Discovering that the signing of the Declaration of Independence didn’t take place on July 4, 1776, got me thinking about dates, days and, being a pastor, the Sabbath.