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Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence


The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history. Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, it proclaimed the thirteen American colonies as independent states, free from British rule. Drafted primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration articulates the philosophical underpinnings of American independence and outlines the grievances against King George III.

Historical Context

The Declaration of Independence was born out of increasing tensions between the American colonies and the British Crown. The imposition of various taxes and restrictive measures by the British government, such as the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Acts (1767), without representation in the British Parliament, sparked widespread discontent. The Boston Massacre (1770) and the Boston Tea Party (1773) further escalated the conflict.

The First Continental Congress met in 1774 to address these issues, but reconciliation efforts failed. The skirmishes at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 marked the beginning of armed conflict. As the Revolutionary War progressed, the desire for complete independence grew among the colonies.

Drafting the Declaration

In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a Committee of Five to draft a formal statement justifying the colonies’ break from Britain. The committee consisted of:

  • Thomas Jefferson (primary author)
  • John Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Roger Sherman
  • Robert R. Livingston

Thomas Jefferson, known for his eloquent writing, was chosen to draft the initial document. He completed the first draft in a few weeks, which was then reviewed and revised by the committee and the Continental Congress.

Structure and Content

The Declaration of Independence is divided into five main parts:

  1. Introduction: The introduction explains the necessity of the declaration and the colonies’ intention to dissolve their political ties with Britain. It emphasizes that it is proper to declare the causes that impel them to separate.

    “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.”

  2. Preamble: The preamble outlines the philosophical foundation of the document, heavily influenced by Enlightenment ideas. It asserts the natural rights of individuals and the principles of government by consent.

    “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.”

  4. Indictment: This section lists the grievances against King George III, detailing the ways in which he violated the rights of the colonists and ignored their attempts at redress.

    “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

    “He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.”

  5. Denunciation: The denunciation criticizes the British people for their lack of support and reiterates the colonists’ attempts at reconciliation, which were met with further oppression.

    “Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. … They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”

  6. Conclusion: The conclusion formally declares the colonies as free and independent states, with all the rights and powers of sovereign nations.

    “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”

Adoption and Impact

The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, and formally adopted the Declaration on July 4, 1776. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, famously signed the document with a large and bold signature.

The Declaration was distributed widely and read publicly, inspiring the colonists and rallying support for the revolutionary cause. It also had significant international implications, encouraging other nations and colonies to fight for their independence and shaping global democratic ideals.


The Declaration of Independence remains a cornerstone of American political philosophy and a symbol of the country’s commitment to liberty and equality. Its influence extends beyond the United States, having inspired numerous other declarations of independence and movements for self-determination worldwide.

The principles articulated in the Declaration continue to resonate, forming the foundation of American democracy and influencing contemporary discussions about human rights and the role of government. Its assertion that “all men are created equal” has been a touchstone for various civil rights movements throughout American history.


The Declaration of Independence is not just a historical document but a living testament to the enduring ideals of freedom, equality, and democratic governance. Its powerful language and revolutionary principles continue to inspire and guide generations of Americans and people around the world in their pursuit of justice and self-determination.


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