The Declaration of Independence was Published without Social Media
by Bill Muckler, TLB contributing author
Could we exist without the advanced technology of today? Could the Declaration of independence be published without the advances made possible by the American Spirit of our Founding Fathers? Would we be guaranteed life, liberty and ownership? Would we even have social media or the devices we access it on?
That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Colonial printers held a rare position in the history of American printing. Printers in Great Britain had a legal monopoly on most printed material, such as the English-language Bible, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and all maps. American printers were limited to producing newspapers, almanacs, sermons, addresses, pamphlets, primers and other lesser items.
Most colonial printers had additional businesses. They ran book stores, dry-goods stores and some were postmasters. Printers were editors, publishers, and distributors who wore many hats. Colonial multi-taskers, so to say.
One of their crowning achievements was the nationwide distribution of the Declaration of Independence. Each of its printings has something important to tell us about life in the United States at the time of the birth of our republic.
Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence to be read by as wide an audience as possible.To this end, thirty newspapers in America printed it.
The Library of Congress owns fifteen original copies of these printings. Reading the Declaration as it first appeared in newspapers brings it to life as a living contemporary document that directed the course of history in the United States and throughout the world.
The promises to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness had yet to be achieved in much of the world. However, without these promises, we would not have come as far as we have today. Keeping the Declaration of Independence fresh and alive in our hearts and minds will continue the spread of liberty.
July 1776 was pivotal in the history of the United States and of freedom as well. The Continental Congress saw the Declaration of Independence as an impressive instrument. The support of nations like France, the Netherlands, and Poland was crucial. Declaring independence made it possible to take the Revolution out of the arena of insurrection and put it directly on the international stage as a war for independence. The simplicity and eloquence of the Declaration of Independence immediately gained the attention of the world and has inspired democratic movements ever since. Getting the word out was a priority.
The Printers and their Newspapers
John Dunlap, a Philadelphia printer, took the manuscript copy of the Declaration and printed it as a single-sheet broadside on the evening of July 4, 1776. It took a little longer for it to appear in newspapers.
Benjamin Towne, a Philadelphia printer, was the first to print the Declaration in a newspaper. On Saturday, July 6, 1776, The Pennsylvania Evening Post, published every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, carried the Declaration of Independence on the front page.
Mary Katherine Goddard devoted the front page of her newspapers, The Maryland Journal and The Baltimore Journal, to the Declaration on Wednesday, July 10th. She was one of thirty female printers in the colonies. Printing was one the few professions open to women at that time. She was the first woman in the American colonies to serve as postmaster, a position she held fourteen years.
The Pennsylvania Gazette was the most successful newspaper in colonial America. It printed the Declaration of Independence on columns one and two on July 10, 1776. Benjamin Franklin, took control of this paper from Samuel Keimer in 1729, and then used his influence as postmaster to increase its circulation and list of subscribers. Franklin introduced the editorial column, humor, the first weather report and the first cartoon, the famous drawing of a divided snake with the caption “Join or Die” in 1754 in response to the French and Indian massacres of settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Journal was the major competitor to The Pennsylvania Gazette. On July 10, 1776, it printed the Declaration of Independence on page one. It was owned and run by William Bradford and his son Thomas. He established the London Coffee-House in 1754, which served as the seat of the merchants’ exchange in Philadelphia. The Bradfords were the official printers to the First Continental Congress. The Journal was a zealous advocate for the American Revolution.
On July 11th, a whole page of the Declaration of Independence was published, using a large font and embellishing it with a border of printers’ decorations, the most elaborate printing of a government document to date.
The New York Packet began publication in January 1776. The printer was Samuel Loudon, a young Irishman, who printed his newspaper on Thursday, so the earliest he could print the Declaration was on Thursday, July 11. The front page was devoted to a speech in the House of Lords by the Duke of Richmond. The Declaration does not appear until page two, column three.
This speech was a fierce debate in the House of Lords on the Revolution. The Duke of Richmond questioned the ability of the British to finance such a war and worried about the world’s reaction to Great Britain destroying the farms, homes, and lives of colonials. He even mentioned the trial of Ethan Allen and described this patriot as the worst type of man, however useful in that he could be traded for British prisoners of war. This diatribe on the American Revolution precedes the Declaration of Independence. If anyone had any doubts about the need for independence, the Richmond speech quickly changed their minds. Reading the Declaration roused the reader to support and fight for freedom.
When I wrote 20/20: A Clear Vision for America, I described the issues that “We the People” are facing in 2016. We face the same concerns in 2016 our Founding Fathers faced in 1776. Sadly, now we are now facing tyranny from within. In 1776, about fifteen percent of Americans wanted sovereignty. I hope and pray that more citizens want it today. We must band together to agree on a new course.
Read more of my “casually sarcastic” articles to discover that I am an equal opportunity critic of all types of anarchy and nonsense. Check out the blog.
Spiritus meus es tu. Ego semper fidelis.
God Bless us all and God Save our America. Our country, our Constitution, our culture, our civilization and our children need you now more than ever. Don’t ever forget what these brave people did to unite us and save us from tyranny. ~Bill