Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

A “Revolutionary” Picture Worth 1,458 Words

Date: 04 July 2018
Category: Grammar

When the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775, who could have imagined it would lead to the renowned, unprecedented Declaration of Independence the following year, thus creating a dichotomy between the two continents of North America and Europe?

While we obviously have no photo of the signing of this great 1,458-word document, a realistic depiction, re-creating the historic scene does exist, entitled: “Declaration of Independence,” painted by Connecticut-born artist, John Trumbull. Truth be known, the artwork actually shows the five-man committee presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Congress on June 28, 1776, not the actual signing.

Although he wasn’t present at the convention, Trumbull included 42 of the 56 signatories–many of the figures in the picture from still life or in person–and visited Independence Hall to depict the actual chamber where the delegates met. Trumbull had no portrait of Benjamin Harrison V to work with, but his son Benjamin Harrison VI was said to resemble his father, so Trumbull cleverly painted his countenance instead. Since the debate and signings covered a period of time when membership in Congress changed, the men featured in the painting never were in the same room at the same time, but who’s counting?

If you’re a history buff, you can have your own copy of this congressional gathering by going to a bank and trying to find any two-dollar bill printed since the Bicentennial: the reverse side features this very same painting by Trumbull. Believe it or not, this currency currently has $1.2 billion in circulation.


P.S. Did you know that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and that James Monroe  also died on Independence Day five years later?

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