The Declaration of Independence is one of the three documents of great importance in American history for many reasons, the other two of these documents were The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights (The Bill of Rights are actually the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution). The original thirteen colonies were at odds with Great Britain and considered themselves independent and no longer wanted to be part of the British Empire. The colonists were fed up with the heavy taxation the British had levied on them to pay their considered “fair share” of the costs Great Britain had incurred during the Seven Year’s War. Two of these taxes were the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act. The burden of the new taxes were considered both harsh and unbearable for the struggling new colonies. The colonists were also angry because they had no representation in the British Parliamentary to plead their case. This was one of the reasons that caused the Founding Fathers to adopt the Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress 1775. Among those attending was then Colonel George Washington who was with the Virginia delegation.
It is noteworthy to remember that these members were committing an act of Treason by signing the Declaration and if the Revolutionary War had been lost no doubt all of these men would have been arrested and taken back to Great Britain for trial and when convicted would have been hung as Traitors to the Crown. The Declaration itself was a statement of independence from British rule and the adoption of self rule by the newly formed government. The Declaration was formally signed on July 4th, 1776
Events leading up to the Declaration:
The Declaration of Independence along with the Constitution of the United States
are without a doubt the two most important documents ever penned in American History. They were written by the leaders and the common men of the time when living under the rule of Great Britain had become unbearable. The taxes imposed were so severe that the colonists felt the necessity to rebel. Although the movement started slowly it gained momentum with discussions in town hall meetings and in local churches. Not all of the colonists were convinced of this new and growing movement and in the end remained as Loyalists to the crown. This division among the colonists divided not only communities but friendships and family’s as well. Included among the loyalists were many of the rich and famous of the time that had gained their considerable land and bank holding because of their connections in Great Britain. They were comfortable in their lives and although they didn’t like the new tax burden imposed on them they never the less thought it better to pay the taxes and maintain their ties with Great Britain and continue to remain loyal to the crown. These actions would prove to be the wrong choice for them. In the end the war with crown was won and most loyalists were forced to return to England and abandon all they had worked so hard to acquire.
As the independence movement gathered strength and approval among most, it was Thomas Jefferson and Natural Law (the law of nature) that these founding fathers believed in almost to the man. With this in mind and being men of great Christian faith they were moved to fashion both the Constitution and the Declaration using the principals found both in the natural law of things and what they believed God had ordained for man to be. The following is a timeline of events leading up to the signing and implementation of the Declaration of Independence.
Chronology of Events
Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, receives Richard Henry Lee’s resolution urging Congress to declare independence.
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston appointed to a committee to draft a declaration of independence. American army retreats to Lake Champlain from Canada.
Jefferson, at the request of the committee, drafts a declaration, of which only a fragment exists. Jefferson’s clean, or “fair” copy, the “original Rough draught,” is reviewed by the committee. Both documents are in the manuscript collections of the Library of Congress.
A fair copy of the committee draft of the Declaration of Independence is read in Congress.
Congress debates and revises the Declaration of Independence.
Congress declares independence as the British fleet and army arrive at New York.
Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day. John Dunlap prints the Declaration of Independence. These prints are now called “Dunlap Broadsides.” Twenty-four copies are known to exist, two of which are in the Library of Congress. One of these was Washington’s personal copy.
John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, dispatches the first of Dunlap’s broadsides of the Declaration of Independence to the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware.
Pennsylvania Evening Post of July 6 prints the first newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence.
The first public reading of the Declaration is in Philadelphia.
Washington orders that the Declaration of Independence be read before the American army in New York
Congress orders the Declaration of Independence engrossed (officially inscribed) and signed by members.
Delegates begin to sign engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence. A large British reinforcement arrives at New York after being repelled at Charleston, S.C.
Congress, now sitting in Baltimore, Maryland, orders that signed copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore be sent to the states.
As history has proven this act of defiance by a small but determined group colonists led the newly emerging country of America, that would rise to be a world leader when it came to a universal set of freedoms the world had never known before.
It is suggested that you take the time to slowly read the Declaration of Independence and grasp the meaning held with in it. The simple clarity of the words contained within it should be a source of great pride for every American. The United States of America has been in the past and continues today to be a magnate for all men and women who seek the simple desire to be free. The great strength of America has been and will continue to be the diversity of its people. Engraved in the Seal of the United States E pluribus unum meaning “Out of many, one”
Might we also suggest to all that if you want to learn more about the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence there is a free on line course available from Hillsdale College at http://constitution.hillsdale.edu/. This course will give you a good working knowledge of these great and important documents of American History.