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Fifth Week of Writing "Jefferson’s Masterpiece"

In addition to providing historical information about what happened on the three days I wrote about last week, I also provided some insights into Thomas Jefferson and the peripheral events that were taking place in the Second Continental Congress. As you will see, Congress did not spend all of its time dealing with lofty questions of how to conduct a war with a ragtag army of farmers and tradesmen or how to achieve independence from Great Britain. The congressmen spent time on other matters.


I have provided excerpts to illustrate how the story is progressing.


FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 1776


Congressional President John Hancock gaveled Congress into session promptly at 9 o’clock.


The first order of business was to authorize the payment of $750 to Thomas Thomson for lumber and to pay Thomas Mayberry the sum $117 for plated iron.


Next, Secretary Thomson read two petitions, one from Colonel James Easton and the other from William Poole, that Hancock referred to the appropriate committee for consideration.


Congress then welcomed the delegates from New Jersey – Richard Stockton, Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson and Dr. John Witherspoon. The colony of New Jersey had not been represented in Congress for several months. The instructions they carried from the Provincial Congress of New Jersey empowered them “to join with the Delegates of the other Colonies in Continental Congress,” to declare “the United Colonies independent of Great Britain.” …


The pro-independence delegates were pleased to hear this news.


SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 1776


After the tavern maid served their drinks and took their orders, Jefferson posed the question that had brought them together. “What are our chances of approving the Virginia Resolution?”


Sam [Adams] finished his tea before answering. “The outlook is much better now than when it was introduced on June 7. There will still be some opposition from those, like John Dickinson, who think we are acting too hastily. But I’m confident we’ll be successful in the end. Congress will approve the Virginia Resolution and your declaration. Independence is the only option we have left. And the people on the streets, and in the shops, and in the taverns are calling for a separation. Our time is now … it will happen. … It must happen.” He pounded the table with his right fist.


John [Adams] could see that look of determination that Sam always got when he talked about the struggle between America and England. He knew how important this subject was to his cousin. He was also aware of the personal and financial sacrifices Sam had made over the years because of his single-minded goal of independence for the colonies.


“How many colonies have given instructions to their delegates on the subject of independence?” Jefferson asked.


“Eleven colonies have instructed their delegates to support independence,” Sam answered. “We’ve still not heard from Maryland and New York. My friends from those colonies have told me that they hope to receive their instructions soon.” … “Even though almost all of the men have been directed on how to cast their votes, I am told that some – probably John Dickinson – will ignore their instructions and vote against the [Virginia] resolution.”


MONDAY, JULY 1, 1776


Jefferson rose at 5 o’clock and ate his usual breakfast of cold biscuits and hot tea.


When he heard the noise outside his window, he realized that it was market day. This was the day farmers brought their vegetables, fruits and meats to the city to sell. Monday was always the busiest and noisiest day of the week.


He preferred the quietness of Williamsburg, compared to Philadelphia. His preference, however, was the tranquility of his home on top of the mountain in Virginia, which he had named Monticello.


After he finished dressing, he stood by the window to watch the people pass by. “Market day in Williamsburg is nothing like what takes places in this city,” he thought.


He checked to make certain his copy of the Virginia Resolution was inside the portable writing desk, along with a copy of the declaration. At exactly twenty minutes before nine, he left to walk to the Pennsylvania State House.


Small groups of delegates were standing outside when he arrived. He greeted those who looked his way and proceeded up the steps into the red brick building. More groups were inside. He made his way to his seat at the Virginia table in the corner.


My writing assignment for this week covers those fateful days when the Virginia Resolution was approved and debate began on Jefferson’s masterpiece.


I appreciate you spending time with me today,

Dennis

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