As people across the United States celebrate the nation’s birthday, explore nine surprising facts about the founding document adopted on July 4, 1776.
1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 1, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and on the following day 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. The delegates then spent the next two days debating and revising the language of a statement drafted by Thomas Jefferson. On July 4, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place. First, New York’s delegates didn’t officially give their support until July 9 because their home assembly hadn’t yet authorized them to vote in favor of independence. Next, it took two weeks for the Declaration to be “engrossed”—written on parchment in a clear hand. Most of the delegates signed on August 2, but several—Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton—signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.) The signed parchment copy now resides at the National Archives in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, alongside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
2. More than one copy exists.
After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the “Committee of Five”—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston—was charged with overseeing the reproduction of the approved text. This was completed at the shop of Philadelphia printer John Dunlap. On July 5, Dunlap’s copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These rare documents, known as “Dunlap broadsides,” predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned.
3. When news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, it started a riot.
By July 9, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of Independence had reached New York City. With hundreds of British naval ships occupying New York Harbor, revolutionary spirit and military tensions were running high. George Washington, commander of the Continental forces in New York, read the document aloud in front of City Hall. A raucous crowd cheered the inspiring words, and later that day tore down a nearby statue of George III. The statue was subsequently melted down and shaped into more than 42,000 musket balls for the fledgling American army.
4. Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain.
While the majority of the members of the Second Continental Congress were native-born Americans, eight of the men voting for independence from Britain were born there. Button Gwinnett and Robert Morris were born in England, Francis Lewis was born in Wales, James Wilson and John Witherspoon were born in Scotland, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton were born in Ireland and James Smith hailed from Northern Ireland.
5. One signer later recanted.
Richard Stockton, a lawyer from Princeton, New Jersey, became the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his support of the revolution. On November 30, 1776, the hapless delegate was captured by the British and thrown in jail. After months of harsh treatment and meager rations, Stockton repudiated his signature on the Declaration of Independence and swore his allegiance to King George III. A broken man when he regained his freedom, he took a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey in December 1777.
6. There was a 44-year age difference between the youngest and oldest signers.
The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin, 70 years old when he scrawled his name on the parchment. The youngest was Edward Rutledge, a lawyer from South Carolina who was only 26 at the time. Rutledge narrowly beat out fellow South Carolinian Thomas Lynch Jr., just four months his senior, for the title.
7. Two additional copies have been found in the last 25 years.
In 1989, a Philadelphia man found an original Dunlap Broadside hidden in the back of a picture frame he bought at a flea market for $4. One of the few surviving copies from the official first printing of the Declaration, it was in excellent condition and sold for $8.1 million in 2000. A 26th known Dunlap broadside emerged at the British National Archives in 2009, hidden for centuries in a box of papers captured from American colonists during the Revolutionary War. One of three Dunlap broadsides at the National Archives, the copy remains there to this day.
8. The Declaration of Independence spent World War II in Fort Knox.
On December 23, 1941, just over two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the signed Declaration, together with the Constitution, was removed from public display and prepared for evacuation out of Washington, D.C. Under the supervision of armed guards, the founding document was packed in a specially designed container, latched with padlocks, sealed with lead and placed in a larger box. All told, 150 pounds of protective gear surrounded the parchment. On December 26 and 27, accompanied by Secret Service agents, it traveled by train to Louisville, Kentucky, where a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division escorted it to Fort Knox. The Declaration was returned to Washington, D.C., in 1944.
9. There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
In the movie “National Treasure,” Nicholas Cage’s character claims that the back of the Declaration contains a treasure map with encrypted instructions from the founding fathers, written in invisible ink. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is, however, a simpler message, written upside-down across the bottom of the signed document: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” No one knows who exactly wrote this or when, but during the Revolutionary War years the parchment was frequently rolled up for transport. It’s thought that the text was added as a label.
50 years after the Biafra War, a turning point for humanitarian assistance
The Biafra War (1967-1970) in Nigeria led to a humanitarian crisis and the world’s largest civilian airlift. As a result, groundbreaking reforms were launched in humanitarian assistance.
The Biafra War in the public eye
In 1968, the world saw pictures of starving children in Biafra. These images shone a spotlight on a conflict, the Biafra War in Nigeria, which had been raging virtually unnoticed by the West. Southeast Nigeria had declared its independence in May 1967, leading to a protracted civil war and a humanitarian crisis. The war only ended two‑and‑a‑half years later, on 15 January 1970. Up to two million people died, many of them from starvation.
The images of the “Biafra children” created a wave of solidarity in many countries and a flood of donations. Furthermore, the Biafra War became a turning point for the development of humanitarian assistance. The churches played a crucial role in Biafra. Church organisations of various denominations and from different countries joined forces to form an aid alliance and provided people in the Biafran enclave with food and medicine via an airlift. Although it is less famous than the Berlin Airlift, this was the largest civilian airlift in world history, with 80,000 tonnes of food and medicine transported by over 7000 flights. According to official figures, the airlift saved a million lives.
Conference on humanitarian assistance 50 years after Biafra
An event co-organised with Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and Caritas International is taking place at the Federal Foreign Office on 14 January 2020 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Biafra War. Experts from humanitarian organisations, academia and civil society will discuss developments in humanitarian assistance and the importance of the humanitarian principles. Civil‑society and church organisations are essential partners in alleviating human suffering around the world. The Federal Foreign Office supports a large number of humanitarian aid projects run by organisations such as Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and Caritas International.
Establishment of the humanitarian principles
Similar questions arise in humanitarian aid today as those posed by the Biafra War. How can access to people in need be ensured? Which principles define the provision of aid? Humanitarian assistance has developed significantly since the time of the Biafra War. The humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are now well established. While long‑term aid was primarily provided by church organisations during the Biafra War, humanitarian assistance is now more firmly part of the international system, for example under the auspices of the United Nations.
Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, commented as follows:
“Humanitarian assistance has developed tremendously in the past 50 years. As one of the largest humanitarian donors, Germany works with its partners to ensure that the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are upheld and promoted, as respect for these principles helps humanitarian organisations and aid workers to negotiate access and people in need to receive aid even in complex crises and conflicts.”
Where Is Your Wrapper?’ By Bisi Fayemi
I was in Uganda a few years ago for one of the programs we used to run at the African Women’s Leadership Institute. One day, there was a report about something that had happened in one of the local markets. One of the women in the market went into labour unexpectedly. It seemed there was no time to get her to a nearby hospital or clinic, so the women around went into action. Some of them ran around to look for basins, hot water, towels, and razors.
A few held her hand and encouraged her to push. Majority of the women around took out their wrappers and held them up, creating a protective ring around the woman, shielding her from prying eyes. Every now and then, this scenario plays itself in other markets around the continent, and the response is mostly the same – women bring out their wrappers to protect one of their own.
Sadly, this is no longer the case these days. Instead of wrappers coming out, it would be cell phones to record every graphic detail. Sure, help might still come, but not before the person concerned has all their pain and agony out there for all the world to see.
Recently, there was the case of a young woman in Ajah, Lagos, who was found wandering the streets. Reports on how she got there vary, but she was stark naked, extremely emaciated and incoherent. Instead of immediately rushing to help, covering her up and getting her medical attention, onlookers laughed at her, threw things at her and recorded her on their cell phones.
Without any idea of who she was or how she got there, judgements were made on the spot about her being the victim of ritualists which she must have brought on herself in her quest to make quick money. A good Samaritan, Keira Hewatch, stepped in and took her to the hospital. Even though many onlookers were not prepared to help the poor woman on the road, they tried to stop Keira from helping her, saying she too might be bewitched. Essentially, they refused to bring out their wrappers to protect and save someone and tried to stop someone else who was willing to bring out hers.
What do these wrappers signify? To me they mean protection, solidarity, sisterhood, empathy, kindness, compassion, duty, all those things and more that make us human beings. In the market places where the scene I described in Uganda happens, there is an unspoken protocol amongst the women – a responsibility to take care of one of their own who needs them. She is in pain. Afraid. But she has sisters around her, rooting for her and helping her.
So, I ask us my dear sisters, where is your wrapper? Where is your wrapper to shield and protect other women and girls who need you? Where was your wrapper for the little girl who was molested by someone in your household and you said ‘Shhhhh’ and looked the other way? Where was your wrapper when someone you know said she was raped by someone she trusted? Did you ask her what she was wearing? Or if she seduced him? Where was your wrapper when your friend needed succour from an abusive husband? Did you gossip behind her back that it served her right, she is too arrogant? Where was your wrapper when your sister or daughter told you that her lecturers were harassing her in the University? Did you tell them that they must have done something to encourage them? Where was your wrapper when a young woman who could have been your own sister, daughter or niece was found on the streets naked? Were you one of the women who stood by and recorded her misery and threw things at her? Were you one of the men who tried to stop brave Keira from helping? What was in it for you to have a very sick woman die untended in broad daylight, with human beings baying for her blood like animals? Even animals care more for their own.
Our wrappers might all look different, with varying sizes, shapes and colours, but each and every one of us has a wrapper. Bring that wrapper out to shield another woman, or a man. Use it to help get her a contract, help with her rent, pay her children’s fees, help her with capital for a business or simply a discreet shoulder to cry on. Never let a day go by without bringing out that wrapper. The way God works is that the more wrappers you bring out for others, the more will come out for you. We don’t only need wrappers when we celebrate and buy Aso Ebi. We need the wrappers for our trials and tribulations and we all have them.
The women in the market place might never see the woman they helped again. She might never be able to say thank you. Yet she will never forget that other women stood by her and gave her dignity and covered her nakedness. Are we prepared to cover the nakedness of others, or do we want to be part of the mob that strips them naked? These days there seems to be a war against women. Not only is sexual violence at an all time high, these crimes are now committed in full view of the public. A young woman is accused of stealing and stripped naked, hands all over her and objects being stuck into her. When this happens, what do we do, will we look the other way? When a woman is being harassed online, do we join in the abuse? The more wrappers we bring out, the safer we will all be. There is another conversation to be had with the men, with our male leaders, with those who have the powers and privileges that weaken our agency and make us forget that we have wrappers in the first place. Today, we are talking to and about ourselves.
Let us all agree to bring out our beautiful, strong, diverse wrappers. Our wrappers of respect, love, dignity, support and endless hope. Thank you for bringing out your wrapper Keira. God bless us all.
The Ekiti State First Lady, Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, a Gender Specialist and Social Entrepreneur writes.
Sowore and allegory of the rat that saw tomorrow | By Festus Adedayo
Many commentators on the attempted abduction of rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, right inside a courtroom of the Federal High Court, Abuja by men of the State Security Service (SSS), self-styled as the Department of State Services (DSS), have termed the occurrence tragic. I disagree. I tend to think that the tragedy is not that one person, out of about 200 million Nigerians, was visited with the raw brunt of a Mobutu Sese-Seko in Nigeria. The tragedy, to my mind, is that Nigerians still trivialize and euphemize the gravity of the calamity that is right here with us.
The tragedy is reflected in the fact that we do not realize how, with Muhammadu Buhari, we are all in trouble, without a single exception. The tragedy is further compounded by those who, on account of party, ethnicity, politics or religion, have, since Friday, been excusing, legitimizing or rationalizing the calamity that befell Nigeria on that black Friday, right inside that court room. Let us pause a while as I situate the gravity of the tragedy.
A tragedy of similar trope that I can readily recall is the fable of the rat, goat, cow and the landlord that I was told several decades ago. It is a story that is used to graphically paint the tragedy of group failure to confront an impending calamity from its infancy; it is our own version of German Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller’s poetic rendition of post-war cowardice of German intellectuals and some clergymen at the outset of Adolf Hitler’s macabre despotism and gradual massacre of groups in Europe, one after the other. While Hitler and his Aryan race incrementally decimated all the strata of society, there was a deliberate externalization, rationalization and trivialization of the calamity of his Third Reich, just the way some Nigerians have been rationalizing the Sowore tragedy.
Niemoller had captured the tragedy thus in such an engagingly penetrating poetry: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. This poetry was also engraved on the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.
Africa had her own attempt to rout collective action against tyranny before Niemoller’s, captured in an ancient fable but which possessed similar imperishable take-away.
A Landlord, who reared within his compound rats, goats, cows, and who was living with his wife, once came home with a rat trap. Opportune to sneak into where the trap was kept, the rat alerted the whole Landlord’s community that there was an impending calamity. Fazed by what they perceived as the rat’s attempt to externalize a problem solely his, the rest of the community wondered how the trap could signal an impending calamity to them. Frustrated by repeated attempts to get the community to collectively stave off the doom, the rat eventually gave Late Chief Bola Ige a handshake and embraced his sidon look philosophy.
Then one day, when the Landlord had set the trap to catch the notorious rat in the compound, his wife mistakenly stepped into its menacing metal barbs and was critically injured. Believing that the wound could be treated at home, weeks of self-medication worsened the injury and a hospital visit later pronounced that the wound had courted gangrene. Guests from afar who came to sympathize with the family had to be fed, necessitating the killing of the goat. When eventually, the madam of the house died of the injury, the cow was slaughtered for the burial ceremony.
On Friday last week, the world was astounded at the raw despotism visited on Sowore inside the court by Buhari’s DSS. While so many people who have inner eyes to perceive the calamity that lies ahead for Nigeria saw the event as symptomatic of the berth of Hitler on the Nigerian soil, so many people have rationalized the attack. Some even claim that Sowore, having joined forces to unseat former President Goodluck Jonathan while supporting Buhari’s ascension into power, had literally ridden on the back of the tiger and no one should pity him now that he is venison for the notorious tiger.
If the guilt of yesterday were to be used as the crucifix, not many of us can stand the scalding hot iron. We foolishly disobeyed the promptings of some people whose inner eyes saw beyond the façade of a despot-turned-democrat whose visor Buhari wore in 2015. They told us, even from the start, that they could see well ahead the democratic calamity that Buhari would be.
Believing that anyone but Goodluck Jonathan would do, we consigned those wise counsels inside the trash receptacle. I had a friend who is a professor in the United Kingdom who warned trenchantly, ab initio, that Buhari’s tiger could never change its stripes and thirst for blood. We told him to shut his trap as the new bride was now a repentant democrat. Gradually, Buhari started to bare his fangs and right now, we are at a very dangerous cusp between full-blown despotism and pseudo democratic credentials of a man whose idea of governance is manacling voices of dissent.
Buhari’s kind of emerging despotism is the most deadly. He is blessed with a taciturnity that is uncommon among men of his ilk. Not many people can claim to know the content of his mind. Those who know him talk of a man who engages mentally nourishing materials seldom.
He is fed on old ideas of brute force and even old ideas of governing a people. He possesses the old Uthman Dan Fodio idea of conquest of kingdoms and sparse idea of what to do with the conquered kingdom thereafter. He baits his foes with the same ruthless drive with which the lion baits the impala and when he descends on the victim, he celebrates his conquest by soaking his fluffy mane with its blood.
Buhari didn’t get to this level of ordering DSS to pounce on his victim inside the hallowed ground of the court overnight. His community – Adolf, Mobutu, Papa Doc, etc. don’t too. It was a gradual process. When he ordered the same DSS to storm the homes of judges in a Gestapo manner at the dead of the night, posturing to be fighting corruption, an admixture of political affiliation, religious connotation and belief in the power of an old military mascot, ensured that a panoply of kudos go to him.
Anyone who asked that a demarcation be made between corruption and justice was typecast as either a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or one of the relics of the corruption of the past. Lionized by the volley of claps, Buhari moved a step forward. The same DSS was unleashed on the National Assembly as hooded agents stormed the legislature. Again, this tyranny was greeted with claps and rationalizations across board. Emboldened, Buhari visited this same gruff on the former Chief Justice of Nigeria and before you knew it, earlier voices in support of the CJN were drowned when he brought out what he called Walter Onnoghen’s hands dripping with filthy oil from our collective broth. Then, he stomped on the religious Mullah, El Zak Zakky and his wife, threw them into the gulag and turned his challenged ear the other way, away from court orders. Repeatedly, his government has shown that the courts do not matter, even as he defecates on the order papers, while muttering diffidently the swear-word, dan buroba, shege!
Ibrahim Dasuki has been inside the Buhari gulag for years now for an offence that is bail-able and which some claim is an offshoot of a personal vendetta yet, we all look the other way, like those cow and goat, pretending that the tiff was between Gambari and Fulani which concerns us merely tangentially or not a jot at all. A recent investigative report by one of the newspapers said that many Nigerians are today in detention for daring to antagonize the new Fuhrer. Since this list of victims of power contains neither us nor our family members, we choose to externalize its debilitating effect.
Today, the power equation in Nigeria is such that assaults the spirit of equity which our forefathers swore must be etched in our hearts.
A Northerner is the President of Nigeria, a Northerner is the President of the Senate and a Northerner is the Chief Justice of Nigeria. We all move about as if nothing is amiss. I cannot readily recall a time in history when this kind of malady ever happened in Nigeria. Even under the military regime, attempts were made to worship this hallowed god of equity in a Nigeria fractured by arcane ethnic configurations, plural culture, languages and all that. At the death of General Murtala Muhammed and the banner fell on a Southerner, Olusegun Obasanjo, to be the Head of State, Musa Yar’Adua had to be given double promotion so that he could assume the 2iC position that would give the power configuration some sense of balance and equitable representation. Not now, not under a man who believes that he was the representative of Fodio in assuring an ascendancy of his kin in the Nigerian equation.
When I see emerging despotism, I remember the example of 19th century famous and powerful Egba migrant to Ibadan called Efunsetan Aniwura.
Wealthy, indeed said to be one of the wealthiest Yoruba women that ever lived, Aniwura became a sturdy in unmitigated tyranny. She was reputed to be a wildly authoritarian Iyalode of Ibadan whose weapon of autocracy was to inflict capital punishment on erring slaves. Like her contemporary character, Sani Abacha, Efunsetan Aniwura was murdered one night in 1874 while she was deep asleep. Two of the slaves in her barn had been tasked with the murder plot, woven by Aare Latosa, the Ibadan king who enlisted Aniwura’s adopted son, Kumuyilo, who in turn engaged the slaves.
We all should gird our loins because the gruff manifestation in the court on Friday is a grim projection of what we will face henceforth. Though he has feebly denied having any plan for a Third Term, psycho analysis of power shows that acts like the Friday court crackdown are precursors to a full-blown despotism or a plan to totally cow the populace, penultimate the baring of a Hitleric fangs. While, in the words of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, I see sorrow, tears and blood ahead, I am however comforted that despotism has an expiry.
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