Do you think you know American history? Test yourself with our special Declaration of Independence quiz—you may be surprised at some of the answers (which, unlike a lot that you'll find on the web, have been double-checked).
1. When did the United States declare its independence?
a) On April 19, 1775 at Concord, Massachusetts.
b) On July 2, 1776 with approval of the Lee Resolution.
c) On July 4, 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
d) On October 19, 1781 with the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
(B) The Continental Congress voted on and approved independence with the adoption of the Lee Resolution on July 2, 1776, and only then began to work Thomas Jefferson’s draft into a formal, public announcement of same, the Declaration of Independence.
2. How many delegates affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776?
(A) Congress sent the Declaration of Independence to the printer on July 4, 1776, and the document was printed without signatures, only the printed names of John Hancock and the clerk. The engrossed (formal) version of the Declaration was signed by 56 delegates on August 2, 1776.
3. How did Thomas Jefferson celebrate on July 4, 1776?
a) He bought 16 Chinese skyrockets.
b) He and Benjamin Franklin had drinks at Philadelphia’s City Tavern.
c) He bought a thermometer.
d) He and Sally Hemmings had a candlelit dinner.
(C) Jefferson’s diary records that he bought a thermometer and several pairs of white gloves on July 4, 1776. There’s no mention of the Declaration on that day. Although he might have had a drink with Franklin, we have no record of it. Sally Hemmings was three years old in 1776.
4. Who, of the people below, did not serve on the drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence?
a) Robert Livingston
b) John Hancock
c) Benjamin Franklin
d) Roger Sherman
(B) Although Hancock was president of the Continental Congress, he was not a member of the committee of five who drafted the Declaration of Independence. The committee members were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Roger Sherman.
5. Where was George Washington on July 4, 1776?
a) At Mount Vernon having custard with Martha.
b) In New York, taking care of business.
c) At a dentist’s office in Philadelphia because of a toothache.
d) In Boston, commissioning the first ships for the navy.
(B) George Washington was in New York arranging the defense of the city, preparing for what would be known as the Battle of Brooklyn Heights.
6. What did King George III write in his diary on July 4, 1776?
a) My pee is blue. My pee is blue.
b) Nothing important happened today.
c) Sunny. Charlotte and children at beach.
d) None of the above.
e) All of the above.
(D) Although at one time King George reportedly had blue pee because of illness, he never wrote that or anything else in a diary—and definitely not that nothing had happened on July 4th. The curator of the British library notes that George III never kept a diary.
7. Benjamin Franklin was the greatest writer in colonial America (or at least the most prolific). What phrase did he contribute to the Declaration of Independence?
a) When in the course of human events
b) We hold these truths to be self-evident
c) We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor
d) Four score and seven years ago
(B) Franklin made few changes to Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration but unmistakably, using the heavy backslashes he used in proofreading, he struck out the last three words of Jefferson’s “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” and added “self-evident.” The other phrases were Jefferson’s innovations except the last, which came from the mind of Abraham Lincoln.
8. The original Declaration of Independence was printed on what special medium?
d) King George’s backside
(A) Jefferson wrote his original draft on ordinary paper—it was a draft, after all—and the version approved by Congress on July 4, 1776, (the Dunlap Declaration) was printed on paper. Only later did Congress authorize a revised (“engrossed”) version (adding the word “unanimous”) that was written on vellum (which is a form of parchment) and signed by delegates on August 2.
9. The main body of the Declaration of Independence is a justification for our separation from Britain, listed as offenses the king has made against the people of the colonies. Which of these is not one of these allegations?
a) He has imposed taxes on us without our Consent.
b) He has plundered our seas.
c) He has obstructed the Administration of Justice.
d) He has waged cruel war against human nature itself.
(D) Jefferson proposed this phrase in blaming the King for imposing slavery on the colonies, but Congress deleted it from the final declaration.
10. Which signer of the Declaration of Independence was later killed in a duel?
a) Alexander Hamilton
b) Button Gwinnett
c) Richard Henry Lee
d) Matthew Thornton
(B) Button Gwinnett, who signed the Declaration as a representative from Georgia, was shot on May 16, 1777, in a duel by Lachlan McIntosh because of a dispute over the latter’s failed invasion of East Florida. He died three days later. Hamilton was not a delegate to Congress. Lee died of natural causes at 62. Dr. Thornton lived to be 90.