Proclaim Our Independence! (1776)


~ by James Still ~

During the night of July 4, 1776, John Dunlap, the official printer to the Continental Congress, printed approximately 200 single-sided copies, called broadsides, of the Declaration of Independence. Congress had ordered, “… copies of the declaration [of Independence] be sent to the several assemblies… that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army.” Journals of Congress, July 4, 1776

In compliance with the orders of Congress, George Washington issued the following instructions to the army: “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger— The General hopes and trusts, that every officer, and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

The Honorable Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent STATES: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at six O’clock, when the declaration of Congress, showing the grounds & reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.

The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity [loyalty] and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.” George Washington, General Orders, July 9, 1776

James Still (Sep 2016),

“Agreeable to this day’s orders, the Declaration of Independence was read at the Head of each Brigade; and was received by three Huzzas from the Troops- everyone seeming highly pleased… God Grant us success in this our new character.” Samuel Blachley Webb, Entry in Diary, July 9, 1776

“The Declaration was yesterday published and proclaimed… Three cheers rent the Welkin [Heavens]. The Battalions paraded on the common, and gave us the Feu de Joie [“fire of joy”, rifle salute], notwithstanding the Scarcity of Powder. The bells rung all Day, and almost all night.” John Adams, Letter to Samuel Chase, July 9, 1776

“… should we wander from [The Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801