How Science Helped Pen the Declaration of Independence – Facts So Romantic

This classic Facts So Romantic post originally ran in July, 2013.

On July 4, 1776, representatives of 13 colonies on the eastern shores of North America signed a Declaration of Independence from England. Winning independence was still a bloody war ahead, an unlikely outcome. Declaring independence was rashness, potentially carrying a death sentence for treason. Not, perhaps, what you would expect of well-educated men, many of them gentlemen steeped in the most sophisticated culture of their time. But steeped they were, and some of them really knew their philosophy and their science. The declaration they signed was no rough, back-woods piece of work.

The era was “The Enlightenment,” the “Age of Reason.” Science had become part of a cultured man’s way of thinking. Like their educated European contemporaries, signers of the Declaration, holding degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and William and Mary, regarded science as a wondrously valuable tool for acquiring knowledge, and viewed its achievements as the clearest manifestation of reason. Isaac Newton’s discoveries represented, for them, human intellect operating at its best.

Franklin Drawing Electricity from the SkyPainting by Benjamin West

Thomas Jefferson, only a few years out of university, was chosen by his more seasoned colleagues to draft the Declaration. They altered very little in…

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