The number one characteristic of these men is that they were brave. Even though you can tell when you read the Declaration of Independence that it was well thought out, extremely well written and had the approval of the important leaders of that day, if you stop to think about it these men were putting their lives on the line. If, in fact, the revolutionary army had lost the Revolutionary War, these forward thinking men could have been executed for treason. The ending phrase of this historical document eludes to this when it says " . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
Another wonderment of this group of men is that something so binding as our Constitution and so expressive as our country's name--The United States-- could have come from such a diversely thinking assemblage. The appearance of solidarity is always present because we rarely think about anything except the results of their efforts. In actuality, the infighting during most of their meetings was an ever-present situation.
On a walking tour of Philadelphia, I was privileged to see some of the places where these debates took place. All did not occur in Independence Hall. That is where they came together and were united. Factions met in homes in the area and much shouting accompanied the discussions which took place. On one street, our guide pointed out a house where one of these meetings took place. George Washington was present and the heated debate had attracted a crowd of citizens. It is recorded locally that Mr. Washington stepped to the door of the residence and aggressively urged the crowd to exit the area and return to their homes.
We usually think that the war followed the written document, but just the reverse is true. Several battles had already taken place: Lexington, Concord, and Breeds Hill. The Declaration was written to justify to the existing world governments these battles and the ones which followed. In June of the year 1776 a representative from Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, in a move before the Continental Congress noted, "These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States." Later that week the "committee of five" was appointed to draft a document which would support Mr. Lee's resolution.
I don't know how many years I thought Thomas Jefferson wrote the whole Declaration of Independence by himself, but then upon further study it was discovered that he had a very astute group of five highly intelligent assistants including John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Livingston. They called their draft "A Declaration by the Representatives of The United States of America in Congress Assembled" and then on July 4th the Congress set a time to read the Declaration of Independence and that is what the final draft was called.
Satisfying my thirst for history, I found a book entitled FOUNDING BROTHERS, The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph Ellis. The Boston Globe says of this book "In this landmark work of history . . .explores how a group of greatly gifted, but deeply flawed individuals ...set a course for our nation.