Read presidential speeches made on July 4 and the back story on how the Declaration of Independence came to be by visiting the Miller Center’s online presidential speech archives and the University Library’s Declaration of Independence site.
Adams’ speech praises the virtues of America; Lincoln justifies the Civil War and asks Congress to validate actions he took unilaterally; and Wilson speaks at Gettysburg on the 50th anniversary of that defining battle.
The story behind the Declaration of Independence, from its first printing to popular 19th-century facsimiles, is illuminated through the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection, the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents and early printings relating to the declaration and its signers. The collection traces the writing, printing and dissemination of the declaration in 1776, and subsequently, its remaking in the years after the Revolution into the American icon it is today.
Documents and letters from the signers bring to life the stories of the individuals who took great risks at that pivotal moment in American history. One was U.Va.’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. He drafted the Declaration of Independence at age 33 with help from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and later called it “an expression of the American mind.”
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