More Fourth of July Myths: Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence


Of course Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. But not alone. The Declaration was the work of a committee—Jefferson plus Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. Historian Gil Klein writes on this topic in the Winter 2011 issue of the Colonial Williamsburg Journal:

“Adams later wrote that he had persuaded Jefferson, who was eager to return to Williamsburg to help craft the new Virginia government, to write the Declaration.

Reason first: you are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second: I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third: You can write ten times better than I can.

Adams’ biographer David McCullough questions that account. Jefferson records no such conversation—he said the committee unanimously appointed him writer.  Karie Diethorn, [curator of Independence National Historical Park], says, ‘Jefferson is remembered as the author of the Declaration, but it is not true that he wrote it alone. The evidence shows that Adams and Franklin were part of the drafting process all along. Jefferson had the style and the art, Franklin had the wit, the practical publisher printer sense, and Adams had the erudition. The three of them really crafted that document.'”

Read the entire article at


7 Responses to More Fourth of July Myths: Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence

  1. J F Sefcik says:

    Again I recommend John Ferling’s “Independence” as the best and latest on the subject. He is a first rate historian of the period who also writes well.

  2. Cassidy says:

    Lies! Sherman didn’t know a participle from a predicate, and Livingston had to go pop the cork in old New York! (Wow, sometimes I really question what my brain chooses to memorize.)

  3. I’ve always loved Adam’s reasoning. It makes him seem so human, especially his description of himself. From what I’ve read, I don’t know that he was being self-depricating – just honest.

  4. Janet Seapker says:

    I adore this site and have used it as justification for refuting lots of historic palaver. I looked under “architecture” for myths, but didn’t fine them. I went through the entire web site, and found things like “cross and Bible doors,” “Holy Lord hinges,” closet and glass taxes. So they are there, just not identified in “architecture”. Any chance you might include them under Architecture?


    • Mary Miley says:

      Can’t imagine what’s amiss here. All those posts are identified as “architectural features.”

  5. Mark Leonard says:

    Is this a myth?  Anyone who has seen the musical 1776 knows this.


    • Mary Miley says:

      Not much of a myth, really, but I’m trying to post something relevant to the holiday! Bear with me . . .

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