Most people can say they’ve heard of this famous statement, written by United States founding father Thomas Jefferson…
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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.”
These words are found in the Declaration of Independence, that was officially approved by the continental congress on July 4, 1776. This piece of paper is considered one of the most important documents of the United States; some say even the world!
Without this declaration of independence from Great Britain, the United States wouldn’t have formed the government we know today, where people create a democracy and vote for who they want to be in charge.
What Is the Declaration of Independence?
According to History, The Declaration of Independence was “an official act taken by all thirteen American colonies in declaring independence from British rule.”
Why Was the Declaration of Independence Created?
Prior to the decision to write the Declaration of Independence, tension was growing between American colonists and Great Britain in such a way that was unlikely to be resolved easily. American colonists found themselves more and more unhappy with the British government, specifically King Geroge III, who was restricting trade and was imposing heavy taxes.
It began after the French and Indian War when Britain wanted to have control over western expansions in North America. This led to the king issuing the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited colonists from settling beyond the Appalachian Mountains, forcing them to abandon lands they had already settled.
In 1765, parliament yet again ruffled the feathers of the colonists by passing the Quartering Act, which stated that colonists needed to pay for British lodging in North America. Many found this act to be absurd since the war was over, and there was no reason for British soldiers to stay in North America.
During this time, Great Britain also issued the Stamp Act and the Townsend Acts, which was their way of demanding the colonists pay hefty taxes to pay for their war debts. The colonists felt that this violated their rights since this had everything to do with England’s parliament and not them.
This eventually led the colonists to boycott and refuse to buy British goods, resulting in the famous Boston Tea Party, a rebellious statement made by colonists who would sneak onto British ships and dump imported tea into the water.
By 1774, the First Continental Congress meeting was held where North Americans would list their complaints on paper. However, the king still wouldn’t listen to their concerns.
At this point, both sides were full of rage, and the British army and the colonists fought in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Later that year, a Second Continental Congress meeting would take place where North America officially formed the original Thirteen Colonies and created an army with George Washington as Commander-in-Chief.
This would spark a Revolutionary War, which would result in the Thirteen Colonies overthrowing British rule and establishing what we now know as the United States of America.
Who Wrote the Declaration of Independence?
Since Jefferson earned a good reputation after his publication of “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” he was given the reins to draft the Declaration of Independence.
Although the draft was edited and rewritten as a group, Jefferson largely contributed to the creation of the document. By July 4th, congress approved the statement and officially declared the birth of America’s independence.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence would include 56 men in total – the first signer being John Hancock.
What Does the Declaration of Independence Say?
Jefferson broke the document into five sections and clearly stated why the colonies sought to seek independence from the British crown. You can read the original Declaration of Independence text, or listen to it in the well-done video found below.
The Declaration of Independence for Kids
The history behind this document is a fun and exciting topic to teach your kids. However, it can be a bit difficult to understand since the authors of the Declaration of Independence spoke in a more formal language that’s different than we know today.
That’s why we have a few hands-on projects that can help give children a better idea of the subject.
You can find more on the Declaration of Independence in our Time Travelers: American Revolution, a study that allows children to step back in time and experience history with fun, realistic, hands-on projects. If you’d like to learn more about why these studies are beneficial for kids, check out our blog posts, What is a Time Traveler and Using Time Travelers.
We also cover the importance of the Declaration of Independence in our History of Holidays Activity Study, where we delve into why Americans celebrate the 4th of July.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the history behind the Declaration of Independence and its vital role in making America the independent, free country it is today! For more updates on “This Week in History” articles, feel free to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.