July 5, 1776
PHILADELPHIA — Voters in America decisively rejected independence from the British Empire in
a referendum that had threatened to break up the 150-year union, but also appeared to open the way for a looser, more federal Britain.
With results tallied by early Friday from all 13 colonies, the “no” campaign won 55.3 percent of the vote while the pro-independence side won 44.7 percent. The margin was greater than forecast by virtually all pre-election polls.
The decision spared King George III of Britain a shattering defeat that would have raised questions about his ability to continue in office and would have diminished his nation’s standing in the world.
Mr. Franklin, while conceding defeat, insisted that the 1 million people who voted for independence showed the depth of yearning for the political powers promised to America by British political leaders to stave off disunion.
“The colonies will expect these to be honored in rapid course,” Mr. Franklin said, while promising to work to heal the divisions the referendum created.
The campaign to keep America within the Empire secured just over 1.3 million votes, providing what the king took as a mandate for broader changes affecting all components of the British Empire.
“The people of the American Colonies have spoken and it is a clear result,” King George said outside Windsor Castle in Berkshire after Mr. Franklin conceded defeat just after dawn. “They have kept our country together. As I said during the campaign, it would have broken my heart to see our union come to an end.”