When and Why did America make the Declaration of Independence?
The rationale of America’s Declaration of Independence was to communicate to foreign nations why the colonies had decided to separate themselves from Great Britain. Earlier, the revolutionary war and other major wars had taken place, and American colonies began to cut major ties to England. They established their currency, post office, congress, and army.
The When: The Declaration of Independence in 1776
By June 1776, at the Philadelphia Independence Hall, Henry Lee voiced a resolution that America was supposed to free itself completely from England’s influence, including political ties that existed between the two countries. Congress approved the move, commenced plans to publish a formal declaration, and selected a committee of five individuals to draft the document. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was appointed to draft the first copy, which he completed within a single day.
Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, John Adams, and Roger Sherman were part of the committee that assisted Jefferson in drafting the document. In the Declaration, Jefferson expressed the rights of people to change an oppressive government. He explained that the government had failed and did not have the consent of those it governs. In addition, he indicated that the parliament did not have the approval of American colonists to govern them. Therefore, the government lacked legitimacy on those grounds.
The Declaration document accused the King of Great Britain of repeated usurpations and injuries over the American States. To prove their concerns, they represented their facts, some of which have been listed below.
- The king had refused to Assent to necessary Laws of the public good.
- He had restricted his Governors on the same ground and suspended any operation until the King’s Assent was obtained or utterly neglected to Assent any Law.
- He refused to pass Laws accommodating large districts of people unless they relinquished their rights of representation in Congress.
- The king assembled the legislative body at places uncomfortable, unusual, and away from the people they serve so that to fatigue them and force them to comply with his demands.
- He dissolved Representative Houses to oppose the King’s invasion of the people’s rights.
- He had obstructed to passing of immigration Laws that would establish the conditions for the Appropriation of Lands.
- He refused to Assent to Laws establishing Judiciary powers, thus obstructing Administration Justice.
- The King made Judges dependent on his will alone on salaries and tenure of their work.
- He had deployed the army without the Consent of the legislature
- He had disconnected their region to trade with other parts of the world.
- He administered taxes without peoples’ consent and deprived the benefits of Trial by a Jury.
- He abolished the free Laws of the English System in the neighboring Province.
- He had plundered their Coasts, towns, and seas and destroyed the American people’s lives.
- He abandoned the American government by withdrawing his protection and starting a war against them.
All those facts were part of their Declaration. They indicated that the colonies should have the right to be free and enjoy independence, thus absolved from British Crown allegiance and totally dissolved from any political connection with Great Britain. In addition, they sought full power to conclude peace, levy war, establish commerce, contract alliances, and do all the acts a sovereign nation may do.
The Declaration was submitted to the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. After making minor changes, Congress endorsed the document that 56 representatives signed as the Declaration of Independence. It is worth noting that John Hancock of Massachusetts was the first representative to sign the document. The table below indicates the names of representatives who signed the Declaration of Independence document.
The six columns of the 56 signatures on the Declaration of 1776
|Column 1||Column 2||Column 3||Column 4||Column 5||Column 6|
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Robert Treat Paine
The Importance of the Declaration
In the Declaration, it was argued that if the government was not protecting the rights of its citizens, people had the right to establish a new government. The idea of forming a new government was not new since other English thinkers, including John Locke, had written about it. Jefferson listed several ways that Britain had failed to serve the colonists; for instance, he wrote how King George denied the colonists their basic human rights and imposed taxes on the colonies. Jefferson indicated and demonstrated on those premises that the colonists had the right to break away from the king and institute their government. As a result, the successful American States we have today were created along this struggle.
In fact, one of the greatest phrases that Jefferson indicated stated, “all men are created equal,” including children, men, women, groups, every race, and ability. However, in America, people’s thoughts were different because only whites had the power to vote and own property. In essence, the Declaration of Independence abolished those draconian laws and established freedom, and Americans recognized equal rights for everyone, which have hitherto been observed.