In school, I was taught that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. I was also taught that it was signed by all the members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Now an article by Matthew Wills says that both “facts” are erroneous.
Wills says that Jefferson did actually write the first draft, aided by a committee that consisted of Jefferson himself plus John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. In later years, Thomas Jefferson claimed that credit must go to Locke, Montesquieu, the Scottish Enlightenment, and the long struggle for English civil liberties.
Jefferson, recognized for his ability with words, reportedly wrote the first draft; then it was edited by the others, and then edited again by the whole Congress. Fifty-six members of Congress eventually signed it (one of them as late as November, not on July 4th).
Matthew Wills’s article may be found at http://daily.jstor.org/who-wrote-the-declaration-independence/.