Skip Nav

United States Declaration of Independence

Quality papers at the best prices

❶When Congress had been considering the resolution of independence on June 8, the New York Provincial Congress told the delegates to wait.

Blog Archive

Navigation menu
Search This Blog
Jefferson’s Early Career

After voting in favor of the resolution of independence, Congress turned its attention to the committee's draft of the declaration. Over several days of debate, they made a few changes in wording and deleted nearly a fourth of the text and, on July 4, , the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved and sent to the printer for publication.

There is a distinct change in wording from this original broadside printing of the Declaration and the final official engrossed copy. The word "unanimous" was inserted as a result of a Congressional resolution passed on July 19, Resolved, That the Declaration passed on the 4th, be fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile of "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America," and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.

Independence amounted to a new status of interdependence: America thus became a member of the international community, which meant becoming a maker of treaties and alliances, a military ally in diplomacy, and a partner in foreign trade on a more equal basis.

The declaration is not divided into formal sections; but it is often discussed as consisting of five parts: Asserts as a matter of Natural Law the ability of a people to assume political independence; acknowledges that the grounds for such independence must be reasonable, and therefore explicable, and ought to be explained. Outlines a general philosophy of government that justifies revolution when government harms natural rights. 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. A bill of particulars documenting the king's "repeated injuries and usurpations" of the Americans' rights and liberties. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant , is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. This section essentially finishes the case for independence. The conditions that justified revolution have been shown. 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. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. The signers assert that there exist conditions under which people must change their government, that the British have produced such conditions and, by necessity, the colonies must throw off political ties with the British Crown and become independent states. The conclusion contains, at its core, the Lee Resolution that had been passed on July 2.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. The first and most famous signature on the engrossed copy was that of John Hancock , President of the Continental Congress. Two future presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and a father and great-grandfather of two other presidents Benjamin Harrison were among the signatories. Edward Rutledge age 26 was the youngest signer, and Benjamin Franklin age 70 was the oldest signer.

The fifty-six signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows from north to south: Historians have often sought to identify the sources that most influenced the words and political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence. By Jefferson's own admission, the Declaration contained no original ideas, but was instead a statement of sentiments widely shared by supporters of the American Revolution.

As he explained in 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, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.

Jefferson's most immediate sources were two documents written in June Ideas and phrases from both of these documents appear in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote that a number of authors exerted a general influence on the words of the Declaration. Becker wrote, "Most Americans had absorbed Locke's works as a kind of political gospel; and the Declaration, in its form, in its phraseology, follows closely certain sentences in Locke's second treatise on government.

Historian Ray Forrest Harvey argued in for the dominant influence of Swiss jurist Jean Jacques Burlamaqui , declaring that Jefferson and Locke were at "two opposite poles" in their political philosophy, as evidenced by Jefferson's use in the Declaration of Independence of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" instead of "property".

Legal historian John Phillip Reid has written that the emphasis on the political philosophy of the Declaration has been misplaced. The Declaration is not a philosophical tract about natural rights, argues Reid, but is instead a legal document—an indictment against King George for violating the constitutional rights of the colonists. If the United States were to have any hope of being recognized by the European powers, the American revolutionaries first had to make it clear that they were no longer dependent on Great Britain.

The Declaration became official when Congress voted for it on July 4; signatures of the delegates were not needed to make it official. The handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by Congress is dated July 4, The signatures of fifty-six delegates are affixed; however, the exact date when each person signed it has long been the subject of debate.

The Declaration was transposed on paper, adopted by the Continental Congress, and signed by John Hancock , President of the Congress, on July 4, , according to the record of events by the U. State Department under Secretary Philander C. Historians have generally accepted McKean's version of events, arguing that the famous signed version of the Declaration was created after July 19, and was not signed by Congress until August 2, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

The most famous signature on the engrossed copy is that of John Hancock , who presumably signed first as President of Congress. I guess King George will be able to read that! Various legends emerged years later about the signing of the Declaration, when the document had become an important national symbol. In one famous story, John Hancock supposedly said that Congress, having signed the Declaration, must now "all hang together", and Benjamin Franklin replied: The Syng inkstand used at the signing was also used at the signing of the United States Constitution in After Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration on July 4, a handwritten copy was sent a few blocks away to the printing shop of John Dunlap.

Through the night, Dunlap printed about broadsides for distribution. Before long, it was being read to audiences and reprinted in newspapers throughout the 13 states. President of Congress John Hancock sent a broadside to General George Washington , instructing him to have it proclaimed "at the Head of the Army in the way you shall think it most proper".

Washington and Congress hoped that the Declaration would inspire the soldiers, and encourage others to join the army. An equestrian statue of King George in New York City was pulled down and the lead used to make musket balls.

The first copy of the Declaration sent to France got lost, and the second copy arrived only in November The Spanish-American authorities banned the circulation of the Declaration, but it was widely transmitted and translated: Hutchinson argued that the American Revolution was the work of a few conspirators who wanted independence from the outset, and who had finally achieved it by inducing otherwise loyal colonists to rebel. William Whipple , a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had fought in the war, freed his slave Prince Whipple because of revolutionary ideals.

In the postwar decades, other slaveholders also freed their slaves; from to , the percentage of free blacks in the Upper South increased to 8. The official copy of the Declaration of Independence was the one printed on July 4, , under Jefferson's supervision. It was sent to the states and to the Army and was widely reprinted in newspapers. The slightly different "engrossed copy" shown at the top of this article was made later for members to sign. The engrossed version is the one widely distributed in the 21st century.

Note that the opening lines differ between the two versions. The copy of the Declaration that was signed by Congress is known as the engrossed or parchment copy. It was probably engrossed that is, carefully handwritten by clerk Timothy Matlack. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in , the documents were moved for safekeeping to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox in Kentucky, where they were kept until The document signed by Congress and enshrined in the National Archives is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, but historian Julian P.

Boyd argued that the Declaration, like Magna Carta , is not a single document. Boyd considered the printed broadsides ordered by Congress to be official texts, as well. The Declaration was first published as a broadside that was printed the night of July 4 by John Dunlap of Philadelphia. Dunlap printed about broadsides, of which 26 are known to survive.

The 26th copy was discovered in The National Archives in England in In , Congress commissioned Mary Katherine Goddard to print a new broadside that listed the signers of the Declaration, unlike the Dunlap broadside. Several early handwritten copies and drafts of the Declaration have also been preserved. Jefferson kept a four-page draft that late in life he called the "original Rough draught". In , Boyd discovered a fragment of an earlier draft in Jefferson's handwriting.

During the writing process, Jefferson showed the rough draft to Adams and Franklin, and perhaps to other members of the drafting committee, [] who made a few more changes. Franklin, for example, may have been responsible for changing Jefferson's original phrase "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "We hold these truths to be self-evident". On April 21, , it was announced that a second engrossed copy had been discovered in the archives at West Sussex County Council in Chichester , England.

How it came to be in England is not yet known, but the finders believe that the randomness of the signatures points to an origin with signatory James Wilson , who had argued strongly that the Declaration was made not by the States but by the whole people. The Declaration was given little attention in the years immediately following the American Revolution, having served its original purpose in announcing the independence of the United States.

The act of declaring independence was considered important, whereas the text announcing that act attracted little attention. Many leaders of the French Revolution admired the Declaration of Independence [] but were also interested in the new American state constitutions. The document had a particular impact on the Decembrist revolt and other Russian thinkers. According to historian David Armitage , the Declaration of Independence did prove to be internationally influential, but not as a statement of human rights.

Armitage argued that the Declaration was the first in a new genre of declarations of independence that announced the creation of new states. Other French leaders were directly influenced by the text of the Declaration of Independence itself. The Manifesto of the Province of Flanders was the first foreign derivation of the Declaration; [] others include the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence , the Liberian Declaration of Independence , the declarations of secession by the Confederate States of America —61 , and the Vietnamese Proclamation of Independence Other countries have used the Declaration as inspiration or have directly copied sections from it.

The Rhodesian declaration of independence , ratified in November , is based on the American one as well; however, it omits the phrases " all men are created equal " and " the consent of the governed ". Declaration of Independence, though it, like the Rhodesian one, omits references to "all men are created equal" and "consent of the governed". Interest in the Declaration was revived in the s with the emergence of the United States's first political parties.

Federalists insisted that Congress's act of declaring independence, in which Federalist John Adams had played a major role, was more important than the document announcing it.

A less partisan appreciation for the Declaration emerged in the years following the War of , thanks to a growing American nationalism and a renewed interest in the history of the Revolution. When interest in the Declaration was revived, the sections that were most important in were no longer relevant: But the second paragraph was applicable long after the war had ended, with its talk of self-evident truths and unalienable rights.

John Trumbull 's painting Declaration of Independence has played a significant role in popular conceptions of the Declaration of Independence. The painting is byfoot 3. It is sometimes described as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it actually shows the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Second Continental Congress on June 28, , and not the signing of the document, which took place later. Trumbull painted the figures from life whenever possible, but some had died and images could not be located; hence, the painting does not include all the signers of the Declaration.

One figure had participated in the drafting but did not sign the final document; another refused to sign. In fact, the membership of the Second Continental Congress changed as time passed, and the figures in the painting were never in the same room at the same time.

It is, however, an accurate depiction of the room in Independence Hall , the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Trumbull's painting has been depicted multiple times on U. A few years later, the steel engraving used in printing the bank notes was used to produce a cent stamp, issued as part of the Pictorial Issue. An engraving of the signing scene has been featured on the reverse side of the United States two-dollar bill since The apparent contradiction between the claim that "all men are created equal" and the existence of American slavery attracted comment when the Declaration was first published.

As mentioned above, Jefferson had included a paragraph in his initial draft that strongly indicted Great Britain's role in the slave trade, but this was deleted from the final version. In the 19th century, the Declaration took on a special significance for the abolitionist movement. Historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown wrote that "abolitionists tended to interpret the Declaration of Independence as a theological as well as a political document".

Garrison called for the destruction of the government under the Constitution, and the creation of a new state dedicated to the principles of the Declaration.

The controversial question of whether to add additional slave states to the United States coincided with the growing stature of the Declaration. The first major public debate about slavery and the Declaration took place during the Missouri controversy of to With the antislavery movement gaining momentum, defenders of slavery such as John Randolph and John C. Calhoun found it necessary to argue that the Declaration's assertion that "all men are created equal" was false, or at least that it did not apply to black people.

Chase and Benjamin Wade , defended the Declaration and what they saw as its antislavery principles. The Declaration's relationship to slavery was taken up in by Abraham Lincoln , a little-known former Congressman who idolized the Founding Fathers.

In his October Peoria speech , Lincoln said:. Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a "sacred right of self-government".

Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. The meaning of the Declaration was a recurring topic in the famed debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in Douglas argued that the phrase "all men are created equal" in the Declaration referred to white men only. The purpose of the Declaration, he said, had simply been to justify the independence of the United States, and not to proclaim the equality of any "inferior or degraded race".

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in "certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.

They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere. According to Pauline Maier, Douglas's interpretation was more historically accurate, but Lincoln's view ultimately prevailed.

Like Daniel Webster , James Wilson , and Joseph Story before him, Lincoln argued that the Declaration of Independence was a founding document of the United States, and that this had important implications for interpreting the Constitution, which had been ratified more than a decade after the Declaration.

Lincoln's view of the Declaration became influential, seeing it as a moral guide to interpreting the Constitution. Jaffa praised this development. Critics of Lincoln, notably Willmoore Kendall and Mel Bradford , argued that Lincoln dangerously expanded the scope of the national government and violated states' rights by reading the Declaration into the Constitution. In their " Declaration of Sentiments ", patterned on the Declaration of Independence, the convention members demanded social and political equality for women.

Their motto was that "All men and women are created equal" and the convention demanded suffrage for women. The Declaration was chosen to be the first digitized text The adoption of the Declaration of Independence was dramatized in the Tony Award—winning musical and the film version , as well as in the television miniseries John Adams. It was first performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on December 7, , and it was taken as a song of protest against the Vietnam War.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. United States Declaration of Independence facsimile of the engrossed copy.

This Day the Congress has passed the most important Resolution, that ever was taken in America. Physical history of the United States Declaration of Independence. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,. Stephen Hopkins , William Ellery Connecticut: Edward Rutledge , Thomas Heyward Jr.

Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence. Declaration of Independence Trumbull. Slavery in the colonial United States. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. You ought to do it. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting. The Mystery of the Lost Original , p. National Archives and Records Administration.

Retrieved July 4, A History , The U. Context and Criticism , Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, , p. The Declaration of Independence: The text of the king's speech is online , published by the American Memory project.

The modern scholarly consensus is that the best-known and earliest of the local declarations is most likely inauthentic, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence , allegedly adopted in May a full year before other local declarations ; Maier, American Scripture , For the full text of the May 10 resolve, see the Journals of the Continental Congress. The text of Adams's letter is online.

For the full text of the May 15 preamble see the Journals of the Continental Congress. Retrieved July 1, The quotation is from Jefferson's notes; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson , 1: Ferling , Setting the World Ablaze: Letters of Abigail and John Adams. Adams predicted that the celebration date would be July 2, the date the independence resolution was adopted, rather than July 4, the date the declaration was approved.

Though he may have predicted the wrong celebration date, his thoughts were prophetic. Boyd, "The Declaration of Independence: The Mystery of the Lost Original". Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography , number 4 October , p. Retrieved October 12, The Online Library of Liberty. Retrieved March 8, Armitage discounts the influence of the Scottish and Dutch acts, and writes that neither was called "declarations of independence" until fairly recently Global History , pp.

For the argument in favor of the influence of the Dutch act, see Stephen E. Lucas, "The 'Plakkaat van Verlatinge': Retrieved June 13, Jefferson identified Bacon , Locke , and Newton as "the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception". Their works in the physical and moral sciences were instrumental in Jefferson's education and world view. In a similar vein, historian Robert Middlekauff argues that the political ideas of the independence movement took their origins mainly from the "eighteenth-century commonwealthmen , the radical Whig ideology", which in turn drew on the political thought of John Milton , James Harrington , and John Locke.

See also Kenneth S. Lynn, "Falsifying Jefferson", Commentary 66 Oct. Ralph Luker , in "Garry Wills and the New Debate Over the Declaration of Independence" The Virginia Quarterly Review , Spring , —61 agreed that Wills overstated Hutcheson's influence to provide a communitarian reading of the Declaration, but he also argued that Wills's critics similarly read their own views into the document.

Albert Henry Smyth New York: Ellis, US Jefferson's Declaration of Independence , p. Now More Than Ever , p. State Department , The Declaration of Independence, , pp. Archived from the original PDF on May 10, Retrieved October 6, Retrieved March 9, A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions: Boyd Papers of Jefferson , 1: Boyd argued that, if a document was signed on July 4 which he thought unlikely , it would have been the Fair Copy, and probably would have been signed only by Hancock and Thomson.

All of these copies were then destroyed, theorizes Ritz, to preserve secrecy. Retrieved April 22, The Coming of the French Revolution. The Declaration of Independence served three major purposes.

The first included the reasons for separation. Among the reasons for separation were statements about the king, George III. It was said that he was a harsh and evil king and that the colonists shouldn't have to be under his rule.

It also said that the citizens were patient, submissive, and long-suffering people. These statements were made to win public support for the Declaration. The second major purpose included a plan for a new theory of government.

In this section of the Declaration, Jefferson stated the basic principles of democracy. They were, "all men are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; among these rights are: The third major purpose for the Declaration of Independence was to present a formal declaration of war. This basically stated that, war did exist. If the Patriots failed to win independence, the leaders of the revolution could be judged guilty of treason against the British Crown and executed.

The result of the Declaration of Independence was that the colonists had gained their freedom.

Popular Topics

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Declaration Of Independence The Declaration of Independence is a document that was written by the continental congress and tommas Jefferson in perticular to the king of england and the english parlament. It was written as a statement to the english that the colonnies were breaking off from the british empire.

Privacy FAQs

- Summation of the Declaration of Independence The Declaration of Independence, composed in Congress, on July 4, , was not only a statement displaying the rights of the governed, but was a declaration of why the thirteen states of the United States was separating themselves from Great Britain.

About Our Ads

The Goals of the Declaration of Independence Essay Words | 5 Pages. The Goals of the Declaration of Independence The American Revolution was not only a battle between the British and the colonists; it was a historical movement that brought about new ways of . The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in Its purpose was to declare the 13 colonies in America free and independent from Great Britain, get other colonists on board, and to encourage other nations to help them.

Cookie Info

Declaration of Independence importance essaysThe Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th , is one of the most important documents in American history. It helped to define America's values and its freedom, as it still stands today. Analysis of the Declaration of Independence Essay Words | 5 Pages Analysis of The Declaration of Independence The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson was made in order to give the colonists a way to break free from the shackles of King George.