The moment had finally come. Far too much bad blood existed between the colonial leaders and the crown to consider a return to the past. Bloodshed had begun over a year earlier and there seemed little chance of a ceasefire. The radical wing of the Continental Congress was gaining strength with each passing day. It was time for a formal break with mother England. It was time to declare independence.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the congress that declared the thirteen colonies “free and independent states.” A subcommittee of five, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, was selected to choose the careful wording. Americans would read this and join the patriotic cause. Foreign powers would read this and aid the colonial militia. The five agreed that Jefferson was the best writer who should draft the declaration.
The declaration was divided into three main parts. The first was a simple statement of intent. Phrases like "all men are created equal," "unalienable rights," and "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" are contained in the first section that outlines the basic principles of the enlightened leaders. The next section was a list of grievances; that is, why the colonies deemed independence appropriate. King George was guilty of ‘repeated injuries’ that intended to establish “Absolute Tyranny” in North America. The concluding paragraph officially dissolved ties with Britain. It also shows modern readers the courage taken by each delegate who signed it.
Debate in Congress followed. Jefferson watched painfully as the other delegates tweaked his prose. Jefferson had wanted to include a passage blaming the king for the slave trade, but southern delegates insisted upon its removal. Finally, on July 4th, 1776, the colonies approved the document. As president of the congress, John Hancock signed the document.
Source: The Declaration of Independence
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