The Declaration of Independence was the first official step for the colonies to become a nation. Colonies belong to a country. Things the colonies produced belonged to a country, not to the colonistsColonies are ruled by a country and they must follow the laws. But colonies do not participate in national government. They do not help to make laws or important decisions that impact the country. Colonies often do not have a place, a representative, a voice, in the government. Colonies are the property of a country.
The colonists in the 13 American colonies did not have the rights that British citizens had – for example, the colonists did not have the right to vote in British elections. In order to make laws and rules for themselves, the colonies needed to form a government. They needed to become an independent nation. The 13 colonies had to declare independence from Great Britain, and then the had to fight a war to get independence.
Declaration of Independence: 1776
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule.
People in the colonies were unhappy that they did not have a say in their government and still had to pay taxes. The Stamp Act of 1765 collected taxes on paper goods like legal documents, newspapers, and playing cards. In one act of protest, men dumped the cargo of a ship full of British tea into Boston Harbor in 1773; this is now called the Boston Tea Party. In 1775, the colonists went to war with Great Britain.
The war between the colonies and Great Britain was called the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). A group of men came together in the summer of 1776 to find ways to become independent from Great Britain. The committee included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
Writing the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was originally written by Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Jefferson then worked together to make changes to the document. The final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, but the actual signing of the final document was on August 2, 1776.
Writing and signing the Declaration of Independence took courage, but it was an important step in the founding of our Government. A famous phrase from the Declaration is “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 those are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Declaration of Independence facts and figures:
- John Hancock was the first to sign. His signature was so large and bold that people use ‘John Hancock’ to mean a signature.
- The Declaration of Independence is on public display in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC.