Today, news dissemination and consumption are virtually real-time and immediate. Social media, cell phones and the internet all ensure what is posted can and will be seen as soon as certain information is written and shared. Of course, not all that long ago that was not the case. Go even further back to earlier centuries and the passing on of particular news could take weeks if not months – typically moving via letter and, later, newspapers. So, how long did it take for the colonies, England and the world to learn of America’s independence in 1776 – and who and what spread that news?
A fascinating look comes from AllThingsLiberty.com and a piece by Todd Andrik, researched and written in a recent year. The article recounts how, on July 2, 1776, Congress voted for independence and approved the text of its official declaration two days later on the holiday we celebrate. This news of independence from England was first reported in the July 2nd Pennsylvania Evening Post and on July 3rd by the Pennsylvania Gazette. Full text of the Declaration of Independence was then made available on July 4th.
Across the pond in England, however, news moved a bit slower, with the announcement coming via ship-sent letter, written July 7th from a stateside General to a London Lord, arriving the second week of August. As such, the August 10th issue of the London Gazette reported for the first time to the English masses of the decision by the colonies to break away from the motherland and of the resulting Declarations of War. It wouldn’t be until 1777, however, that the American public would learn the names of all 55 signers of the Declaration via a printed broadside (or pamphlet) commissioned by Congress. (Note: the 56th signature came later).
And so word of perhaps the most momentous occasion in American history was communicated to the masses in not an immediate yet still surprisingly short period of time. The power of the press had previously informed the people of tyrannical actions by England and fervently stirred the Patriots to revolution. The great thirst for independence could then only be quenched by action – and the timely and accurate reporting of that action; a free press and soon-to-be free country working hand in hand toward liberty.