The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 at Philadelphia
John Trumbull, 1818
By: Fayha Khan
In the previous section you learned about what John Trumbull wanted you to think about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This week on Fact vs. Fiction, you as the readers will help us decide if Mr.Trumbull's art piece was more Fact or Fiction and if he's someone we can trust. The real story goes that our country declared independence on July 4th, 1776, but everyone knows that based off of the totally rad barbecue or city had that weekend (Stay awesome Philadelphia!) The part of this story that many don't know is how it all went down. On that fateful day, the Continental Congress, composed of delegates from all thirteen colonies, met right here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss the latest grievances regarding the British, their mother country. For a long time before declaring independence, the colonists dealt with many instances of British abuse such as the Stamp Act in which taxes were placed on all paper items, the Quartering act in which British troops could invade colonists' homes, and other Acts that all came down to the problem of being taxed without receiving representation in parliament. The British protested these injustices many times; however, after the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the presence of the British navy nearby, the colonists felt it was time to take things in their own hands. When the congress met the war had already started and the new dilemma was whether the colonists were fighting for independence or just to get their rights back. People like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine conveyed the importance of securing independence from the British and the people were ready. A Committee of Five, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Adams, and two others, was chosen to draft the Declaration on June 11th. Although this committee was chosen, it is important to note that the final draft was written by Jefferson. After many days of Jefferson writing it, the committee, and then the Congress approving it as a whole, this was no easy task; it took two days of voting, many instances of states changing their positions, and lots of editing to get to the final decision. Even though, we did get it done, it was definitely not as easy and glorified as other sources hint. Finally the Declaration was sent to the printers and the future of this country was sealed. America would fight! It was formally announced to the public on July 4th; this is why we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th rather than the day it actually got signed, July 2nd. Go America! Male sure to go online to our website to vote whether or not John Trumbull's piece is Fact or Fiction!
Critique of the Painting
By: Lauren Calaza
The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 by John Trumbull is a fascinating composition showing the draft of the Declaration of Independence being presented to the United States Congress. The exigence of this painting was that the United States had just fought Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and defeated them, allowing them to be able to separate and form an independent nation. This painting was created not just for the American and British population, but to show off the glory of the Declaration’s reveal to the entire world. The purpose of this painting is to provide a dramatization of the event to promote pride in the United States. The painting also shows almost all of the signers of the declaration in the background and foreground. The most prominent figures include John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin all standing in front of John Hancock- the President of the Continental Congress. The ornate furniture in the room such as the chair that John Hancock is sitting on also allows for the importance of the event to be emphasized. The lighting in the room that the signing is occurring in is shining brightest on the men presenting the Declaration of Independence. This promotes an emphasis on them to allow for the eye to move to the center of the painting first. It also furthers the idea that the revolutionary war was supported by God and just as He had during the war, God was supporting the United States as they made their separate from Great Britain formal. The artist added ornate decorations to the room such as the red curtains and the British flags on the wall in the background to glorify the significance of the event that was occurring. The contrast created by the use of black and darkness in the two bottom corners with the lightness of the center also allows for the eye to be brought to the men presenting the draft. Overall, this piece is extremely successful as the event is glorified and emphasis is placed on the men presenting the Declaration. The painting has no doubt achieved its goal and increased pride within the nation for the event as well as providing a foundation for the Declaration to be praised by other countries.
By: Valeria Liu
Imagine. It is July 4th, 1776 in the Rotunda of the national capitol. America’s greatest men gather around for the signing of one of the most famous syllologisms revered in world history, The Declaration of Independence. At the right of The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 at Philadelphia by John Trumbull, there is the wise and accomplished man Benjamin Franklin standing with ease, the proud John Adams eagerly awaiting with his hands gracefully rested on his hips, and the one and only Thomas Jefferson delicately placing this magnificent document on the green and golden clothed-table before the president of the Second Continental Congress, John Hancock. Uniformly surrounding these men at a distance are highly-esteemed men as well; they are representatives of colonies both near and far coming together symbolizing the significant impact this declaration had on unifying people who once saw their respective colonies as individual countries. All of them are dressed in their best suits and powdered wigs while standing in a room filled with beautiful decor, intricate architecture, and earth-toned furniture. Greens, browns, oranges, tans, and grays cover the painting giving it a nice serene effect. All these components contribute to exemplifying a perfectly glorious moment. It was definitely a turning point that confidently proclaimed a statement and set a precedent for not only Great Britain to see, but also, the rest of the world.
Identity of the Author
Below we have an Interview with the eminent painter of The American Revolutionary Era: John Trumball.
Interviewer: Good day, John! Welcome! How pleasant the weather is today!
Trumball: Good day to you sir! Aaah, tis a sweet summer day. It reminds me of my childhood in Connecticut.
I was born in Lebanon, Connecticut to Jonathan and Faith Trumball in 1756. My families are descendants of the early Puritan founders of Connecticut. Thus, having a prominent position in society, my father served as governor of Connecticut.
Interviewer: Oh, okay, thanks for sharing.
Trumball: Yes indeed. I also graduated from the prestigious University of Harvard--
Interviewer: --So, you are a man of many talents. What are the fields you are most interested in?
Trumball: I dabble in the study and creation of architecture. And I have been greatly interested in politics from a young age. However, I am known most for my efforts in the field of painting.
Interviewer: How have your efforts as an artist furthered the American Revolutionary cause?
Trumball: Well, as a witness to many of the events of the war, I was able to convey the sentiments that soldiers felt to all my fellow patriots through my art. I was also influential in providing my abilities at Boston to sketch plans of the British fortifications.
Interviewer: Who was your role model that greatly influenced your art career?
Trumball: Well after the war, in 1780, I traveled to London to study under my mentor Benjamin West. I’m sure you have heard of him.
Interviewer: Ummm, no doesn’t ring a liberty bell.
Trumball: (in disbelief) What?! Benjamin West was the swellest artist of his time. His ability to convey emotion and support the patriotic cause is what inspires me today!
Interviewer: Oh, I see.
Trumball: Well then, Old Benny suggested I take my memories of the war and turn them into something tangible that everyone could experience.
Interviewer:How many paintings of the war have you made, thus far?
Trumball: I have painted a whopping total of 250 paintings.
Interviewer: Oh, is that even healthy?
Trumball: Yes. Yes indeed sir. It is very cathartic to me.
Trumball: Well, look at the time. I should go, or else I will be late to my tea date with George.
Interviewer: George Washington, the president?!
Trumball: Yes, no big deal.
Interviewer: Of the United States of ‘Murica?
Trumball: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Sir, you are fibbing
Trumball: Am I sir? I was his second personal aid during the war.
Interviewer: Goodbye, thank you for coming.
By: Sana Khan
It’s hard to talk about the signing of the Declaration of Independence without glorifying it into something more than it actually was. In America, we memorialize this moment, almost deify our founding fathers. But in reality, they were no more human that we are.
This was a time of fear. A few decades ago, declaring independence from Britain was something we would have never imagined to do in a million years. No one knew how it had come to this. However, everyone realized that we had to do something to stand our ground against the British. The British King had subjected us to countless injustices. Taxation without representation was something we didn’t stand for. The war had already started and we were losing badly. We had lost countless soldiers in Boston, at Bunker Hill.
However, colonists can be selfish. Some colonists only worry about their respective colonies, not of Massachusetts. The meeting of the Second Continental Congress was tense. It was hard to unify the colonists into agreeing into war. What people don’t realize is the efforts it took to gain a unanimous vote for declaring independence.
The reason this moment is remembered so fervently in history is because of the implications of this single document. This piece of paper helped us gain international recognition of our independence.