Lee Resolution  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Lee Resolution (also known as "The Resolution for Independence") was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 which declared the establishment of a new country of United Colonies as independent from the British Empire, creating what became the United States of America. News of this act was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action was the Declaration of Independence, approved two days later on July 4, 1776, which is celebrated as Independence Day.

The resolution is named for Richard Henry Lee of Virginia who proposed it to Congress after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President Edmund Pendleton. Lee's full resolution had three parts which were considered by Congress on June 7, 1776. Along with the independence issue, it also proposed to establish a plan for ensuing American foreign relations, and to prepare a plan of a confederation for the states to consider. Congress decided to address each of these three parts separately.

Some sources indicate that Lee used the language from the Virginia Convention's instructions almost verbatim. Voting was delayed for several weeks on the first part of the resolution while state support and legislative instruction for independence were consolidated, but the press of events forced the other less-discussed parts to proceed immediately. On June 10, Congress decided to form a committee to draft a declaration of independence in case the resolution should pass. On June 11, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston were appointed as the Committee of Five to accomplish this. That same day, Congress decided to establish two other committees to develop the resolution's last two parts. The following day, another committee of five (John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison V, and Robert Morris) was established to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers; a third committee was created, consisting of one member from each colony, to prepare a draft of a constitution for confederation of the states.

The committee appointed to prepare a plan of treaties made its first report on July 18, largely in the writing of John Adams. A limited printing of the document was authorized, and it was reviewed and amended by Congress over the next five weeks. On August 27, the amended plan of treaties was referred back to the committee to develop instructions concerning the amendments, and Richard Henry Lee and James Wilson were added to the committee. Two days later, the committee was empowered to prepare further instructions and report back to Congress. The formal version of the plan of treaties was adopted on September 17. On September 24, Congress approved negotiating instructions for commissioners to obtain a treaty with France, based on the template provided in the plan of treaties; the next day, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson were elected commissioners to the court of France.



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