We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

>When the Declaration of Independence was ratified in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, messengers sent by the Continental Congress swiftly distributed copies printed by John Dunlap to each of the thirteen colonies. The General Assembly received Rhode Island’s copy on July 13, 1776. Solomon Southwick, Newport’s printer at the time, printed a draft copy for members of the General Assembly to ratify (one copy is located at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University). This broadside printing was mis-dated June 13, 1776 (Southwick, a great patriot, was likely so excited about the news that he got the date wrong).

Legislators promptly approved the Declaration of Independence and directed the Secretary of State, Henry Ward, to have copies of the Declaration (with Rhode Island’s official ratification added) printed and sent to the town clerk of the then 28 Rhode Island towns. Solomon Southwick, who was also the editor of The Newport Mercury, and used a press once owned by Benjamin Franklin, printed this second issue with the additions (for example, it was declared that 13 guns would be fired off Point Judith), and each was signed by Henry Ward. Only eight of the copies of the Declaration of Independence sent to Rhode Island towns are known to have survived. The copy sent to Providence resides right here in the special collections of the Providence Public Library.

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