From Fraunces Tavern Museum today:
On this day in 1776, news reaches London that the Americans had drafted the Declaration of Independence. Until the Declaration of Independence formally transformed the 13 British colonies into states, both Americans and the British saw the conflict centered in Massachusetts as a local uprising within the British empire. To King George III, it was a colonial rebellion, and to the Americans, it was a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, when Parliament continued to oppose any reform and remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies.
The Declaration of Independence was largely the work of Virginian Thomas Jefferson. In justifying American independence, Jefferson drew generously from the political philosophy of John Locke, an advocate of natural rights, and from the work of other British theorists. The declaration features the immortal lines "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It then goes on to present a long list of grievances that provided the American rationale for rebellion.
The ship carrying the first copy of the declaration to leave the USA was heading for London but hit stormy waters off the north coast of Ireland. It sought refuge in Londonderry and arrangements were made for the declaration to be sent on by rider to Belfast, where it would be met by another ship for delivery to King George III. However, the Belfast News-Letter's editor somehow gained access to the priceless document and duly published it, before King George III or Parliament had seen it, on the front page of the paper's August, 1776 edition. A terrific scoop - and one that stands the test of time.