Declaration of Independence
In the 1770s the colonists decided to stand up to their British rulers. The people believed that England’s leaders could not properly lead the American colonies from so far away. By setting taxes so high, England was using the colonies as a source of income and did not seem to hold much regard for what was actually best for the colonists.
The colonies’ leaders began to meet regularly to discuss the best methods of gaining independence from England. They decided to first oppose the high taxes. When civil petitions did not work, citizens destroyed several shipments of British tea during the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
A Continental Congress was formed in September 1774. Representatives from the thirteen colonies gathered to discuss ways to combat Britain’s harsh rule. An official boycott of British goods was imposed.
Fighting officially started in April 1775 as England’s King George continuously refused to accept terms proposed by American leaders. This began the American Revolutionary War. America’s people knew there was no looking back and were determined to be free when the war was over.
Thomas Paine anonymously published a pamphlet titled “Common Sense” in January 1776, and he sold more than 100,000 copies of it during that year. The pamphlet simply outlined the reasons why it was best for the colonies to be an independent nation.
When England’s military began to block American ports in February 1776, John Adams and other leaders knew the relationship between the two countries could not be repaired. The citizens already felt independent and were now ready to declare it.
In June 1776 a “Committee of Five” was appointed, which included the following leaders:
- John Adams
- Benjamin Franklin
- Thomas Jefferson
- Robert Livingston
- Roger Sherman
These five men discussed the outline that the official declaration would use, and they appointed Jefferson to write the first draft. He quickly completed his first draft, gained input from others, and presented a second draft to Congress on June 28, 1776. Congress worked for a few days to revise this draft and heard from delegates of each state before moving forward.
The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted on July 2 and published on July 4, the date that Americans now celebrate each year as Independence Day. The document contains five sections:
The introduction states that it is sometimes necessary and natural for a group of people to want to break away and become independent to operate in a way that is best them.
The preamble presents an argument that justifies revolt as a last option. The American people believed they were being harmed by England’s leadership and that a fight for freedom was the only hope for the future of their families.
The indictment of King George III addressed the harsh conditions England had placed on America. High taxes and questionable loyalty were discussed, among many other issues. The people felt that the king could not adequately lead America from England and that their needs would never truly be met.
The denunciation summarizes that the American people asked for justice and were ignored. It also states that leaders requested an amicable split and had previously warned that they would do whatever was necessary to earn freedom.
The conclusion finally declares independence, pointing out that America had no other choice following the harsh treatment from Britain’s government.
The Declaration of Independence was first signed by the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and 52 others also signed.
The Revolutionary War continued until 1783, when England officially retreated. America was an independent nation at last.