What Was Edited Out of The First Draft of The Declaration of Independence?

The committee of five and Continental Congress edited out extensively the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson.

Short Answer:

  • They Removed The issue of Slavery.
  • Modified the line ‘Preservation of Life, & Liberty, & The Pursuit of Happiness’

They made around 86 changes to the document.

Due to some problems and probabilities, they had to do it.

Let’s see some main changes and why they had to edit them out:

What Was Edited Out of The First Draft of The Declaration of Independence
What Was Edited Out of The First Draft of The Declaration of Independence

They Edited Out The ‘Issue of Slavery’ of The First Draft

In the first draft, Thomas Jefferson criticized the British government and King George III for supporting and using slavery.

He blamed King George for encouraging slavery through the transatlantic. 

But the Committee had to remove this controversial section from the Declaration.

Because they knew very well that the issue would provoke colonists’ slaveholders to be angry and it could lead them to withdraw their support from the revolution.

Its main reason was – 13 colonies’ economy still dependent upon slavery. Especially, the southern states were highly sensitive to this issue.

On the other side, Congress had very little time to discuss this matter. For them, the independence of the 13 colonies was far more important than the ending of slavery.

Therefore, leaders didn’t want to take this risk at any cost.

On July 1st, 1776, they removed this section from the document.

However, for this reason, many people still criticize the United States’ declaration of Independence.

Because, where on one hand it talked a lot about human beings’ life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; similarly on the other hand it failed it abolish slavery.

The biggest irony was that most of the delegates of the Congress themselves kept slaves at their own homes or working places; even Thomas Jefferson.


They Made Changes On The ‘Preservation of Life, & Liberty, & The Pursuit of Happiness’

In the first draft, Jefferson wrote the line of human’s natural rights as ‘preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness’.

Later, they edited this line to a more melodious form as ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

By the way, you should know that Jefferson took it from John Locke’s philosophy of natural rights.


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