The Declaration of Independence was one of the three accomplishments Thomas Jefferson wanted written on his tombstone. His tombstone reads:
HERE WAS BURIED
AUTHOR OF THE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA
FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Today in 1776, the draft of the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson and edited by the remaining committee members (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) was given to the delegates assembled from the colonies to discuss.
From the Library of Congress website:
Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia behind a veil of Congressionally imposed secrecy in June 1776 for a country wracked by military and political uncertainties. In anticipation of a vote for independence, the Continental Congress on June 11 appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston as a committee to draft a declaration of independence. The committee then delegated Thomas Jefferson to undertake the task. Jefferson worked diligently in private for days to compose a document. Proof of the arduous nature of the work can be seen in the fragment of the first known composition draft of the declaration, which is on public display here for the first time.
Jefferson then made a clean or “fair” copy of the composition declaration, which became the foundation of the document, labeled by Jefferson as the “original Rough draught.” Revised first by Adams, then by Franklin, and then by the full committee, a total of forty-seven alterations including the insertion of three complete paragraphs was made on the text before it was presented to Congress on June 28. After voting for independence on July 2, the Congress then continued to refine the document, making thirty-nine additional revisions to the committee draft before its final adoption on the morning of July 4. The “original Rough draught” embodies the multiplicity of corrections, additions and deletions that were made at each step. Although most of the alterations are in Jefferson’s handwriting (Jefferson later indicated the changes he believed to have been made by Adams and Franklin), quite naturally he opposed many of the changes made to his document.