On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a representative to the Continental Congress from Virginia, introduced a resolution proclaiming that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Three days later, Congress appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of independence. One member of the committee, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), wrote the initial draft, which the other members of the committee and then the Congress as a whole modified. Jefferson later characterized the Declaration in this way: “Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”