United States Declaration of Independence

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United States Declaration of Independence
1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy
1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy
Created June–July 1776
Ratified July 4, 1776
Location Engrossed copy: National Archives
Rough draft: Library of Congress
Authors Thomas Jefferson et al. (Engrosser: Probably Timothy Matlack)
Signers 56 delegates to the Continental Congress
Purpose To announce and explain separation from Great Britain[1]

The United States Declaration of Independence is an important document in the history of the United States of America. It was written in 1776 and says that the American colonies were no longer under the rule of Great Britain, but were a new country.

History[change | edit source]

Before the Declaration[change | edit source]

Before 1776, the United States of America was not a country. The individual states were colonies of Great Britain. They were called British Colonies. This means that the King and Parliament of Great Britain ruled the United States. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men.

Effects[change | edit source]

During this time, many American people were angry at Great Britain. Many say Americans did not like paying taxes to Great Britain when they did not have any representation in Parliament. The American people wanted to be treated like British citizens. When they were not treated like citizens, they felt that their loyalty towards Great Britain was no longer valid.

Taking action[change | edit source]

Responding to actions taken by Great Britain, including the Intolerable Acts, the different colonies formed a Continental Congress to make decisions for all of the colonies. They met in the American city of Philadelphia. During a meeting of the Second Continental Congress, on June 11, 1776, they named John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut to form a committee to draft a document that would become the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration[change | edit source]

Jefferson did most of the writing.[2][3] Jefferson writes of the rights of people and the role of government. Jefferson then lists specific bad things that the government of Great Britain did, like putting people in jail with no reason, making taxes that were too high, and not giving respect to people who lived in the colonies.

What it says[change | edit source]

The Declaration then says that because of all the things that Britain had done to the colonies, the colonies would now be free, independent states.

Independence was actually declared on July 2, 1776 at the Pennsylvania State House. After arguing about it and making some changes, the Continental Congress approved the Committee of Five’s proposed Declaration to that effect. They used this document to announce their declaration. Two days later, on July 4, with New York abstaining, twelve of the thirteen delegations to the Continental Congress approved and ordered the printing of the Declaration. This version was signed only by the President of the Congress John Hancock (as attested by Secretary Charles Thomson). On July 19, 1776, four days after the New York delegation’s concurrence which made unanimous the voice of Congress, the Declaration's title was ordered changed from "A Declaration of the Representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled" to "the unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America". On August 2, 1776 a parchment paper copy of the Declaration was signed by many of the eventual 56 delegates to do so. [4] Many of these signers were not present when the original Declaration was adopted on July 4.[4] One signer, Matthew Thornton, from New Hampshire, who agreed to the Declaration and having joined the Continental Congress, signed on November 4, 1776. [4]

Effects of the Declaration[change | edit source]

The Declaration of Independence had many different effects. One of them said that they were now not part of Great Britain. It also said that all men were equal.

Effects on Britain[change | edit source]

When the king of Great Britain and Parliament heard about this they were angry. Great Britain and the people in America had already been fighting in a war. This war is called the American Revolution. America won the war, and in 1783 Great Britain had to recognize the independence of the new country, the United States, at the Treaty of Paris. They made a new democratic government to govern America

Effects on America[change | edit source]

The people of America know that the Declaration of Independence is very important. Every year on the day of July 4, they have the holiday that is named 'Independence Day'. They celebrate this holiday to remember the day that the Declaration was approved, and the day that the United States of America became a its own country. Now we have parades, fireworks, and songs.

Americans also know the Declaration of Independence is very important because it gives the simple ideas that the people who started the United States believed in. It says that every person in this U.S has rights (of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and that the government has to listen to its own people. These things were what made America a free independent country.

Text[change | edit source]

The initial text says that a declaration of independence must be well-reasoned:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The preamble of the declaration is the best-known part.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Then, the text follows to the main declaration, showing what the United States are going to do and what their goals are.

Present day[change | edit source]

The Declaration of Independence is very old, but it is still here. The paper that Thomas Jefferson wrote on is now in the National Archives Museum near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Becker, Declaration of Independence, 5.
  2. "Declaration of Independence - Thomas Jefferson (Library of Congress Exhibition)". loc.gov. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html. Retrieved February 24, 2011.
  3. "Thomas Jefferson | The White House". whitehouse.gov. 2012 [last update]. http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/thomasjefferson. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The U.S. State Department (1911), The Declaration of Independence, 1776, pp. 10, 11.

Other websites[change | edit source]

Maps, photos, and other media[change | edit source]

The Signers[change | edit source]