The Declaration of Independence is a statement issued by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, announcing the separation of the 13 British colonies in North America from the United Kingdom.
It is considered one of the most important papers in American history, and its concepts have had a significant impact on the development of democratic government and human rights around the world.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but it was reviewed and modified by other members of the Continental Congress, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
The text opens with an introduction outlining the fundamental ideas of governance and individual rights, followed by a list of grievances directed towards King George III and the British Parliament.
The most famous passage of the Declaration of Independence is its second paragraph, which states:
“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 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.”
This passage is frequently considered as a founding concept of American democracy and has served as an encouragement to those worldwide seeking freedom and equality.
The Declaration of Independence launched the American Revolution and established the United States of America as a sovereign nation.
Its influence can be seen in the United States Constitution, which was established a decade later and remains a guiding text for American government and society.
Declaration of Independence Facts
1. It contains 56 signatures.
There were 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence, and they came from the 13 colonies.
A number of well-known founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, were among these delegates, along with a number of other notable individuals.
2. It was not the first declaration of independence.
Several colonies had already declared their independence from Great Britain before the Continental Congress assembled to prepare the Declaration of Independence.
The colony of North Carolina released the first of these statements on April 12, 1776, just a few months before the national proclamation was ratified. Virginia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey were among the other colonies that declared declarations of independence prior to July 4, 1776.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason and approved by the Virginia Convention on June 12, 1776, was also an important forerunner to the Declaration of Independence.
According to the Virginia Declaration of Rights, all men have certain natural and inalienable rights, such as the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The wording used in the Declaration of Independence was later replicated.
These early declarations of independence were significant for a variety of reasons. First, they aided in mobilizing popular support for the concept of independence and uniting the colonies around a common goal.
Second, they established the fundamental concepts of democratic government and individual rights, which were later codified in the national declaration.
Finally, they revealed the colonists’ deep devotion to the goal of independence, as well as their determination to take bold and decisive action to attain it.
3. The original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has been lost.
The original draught of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence is known as the “original rough draught” and is thought to have been produced over the course of a few weeks in June 1776.
This draft was first given to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776, and was then revised and edited by other members of the Continental Congress, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
Despite its historical importance, the original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has been lost for over two centuries. It is unknown when or how the original draft was lost, but it is thought to have vanished sometime in the 1790s.
Some researchers assume that the paper was destroyed during a fire at the State Department in 1800, but there is no clear evidence to support this theory.
While the original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has been lost, multiple copies of the edited and amended form remain.
The “engrossed copy,” which is the official document signed by members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is the most renowned of them. This copy is now stored under strict security and carefully conserved for future generations at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The “Dunlap broadside,” which was the first printed version of the text and was delivered to the colonies in July 1776, and the “Stone engraving,” which was created in 1823 and constituted the foundation for many subsequent reproductions of the document, are two other copies that still exist.
Despite the loss of the original rough draft, these surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence remain significant emblems of American liberty and democracy.
4. “all men are created equal”
The statement “all men are created equal” is one of the Declaration of Independence’s most famous and enduring sentences, and it has become a cornerstone of American democracy and human rights.
However, at the time it was written, the idea that all men were created equal was a bold and contentious concept, especially in the context of slavery and the time’s racial hierarchy.
Many of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson, who penned the declaration, and George Washington, who led the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War, were slave owners themselves.
This contrast between the Declaration’s concepts of equality and individual rights and the reality of slavery and racial discrimination in American society would be a source of friction and conflict for many years to come.
Despite this paradox, the concept of equality for all men became a rallying cry for many abolitionists and civil rights campaigners in the decades that followed.
It was used to advocate for the abolition of slavery, the expansion of voting rights to women and people of color, and the defense of individual rights and liberties.
5. A paragraph about the king was omitted.
Slavery was a complex and contentious issue in the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
Although many of the founding fathers believed in the premise of individual rights and equality, the reality of slavery and American society’s racial hierarchy put these ideas to the test.
A paragraph in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence that chastised the British King for his role in fostering the transatlantic slave trade exemplifies this tension.
The paragraph accuses the King of “waging terrible war against human nature itself” by supporting the slave trade and bringing in vast numbers of enslaved Africans.
This line, however, was eventually deleted from the final version of the Declaration, which was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
The reasons for its removal are unclear, although it is thought that some members of Congress decided that the issue of slavery was too contentious and potentially divisive to include in the constitution.
6. It was not immediately made public.
The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, but it was not immediately made public. Instead, it was printed and disseminated around the colonies, where it was read aloud to the people at various public gatherings and occasions.
The Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time in public on July 8, 1776, in Philadelphia, the city where it was adopted. Colonel John Nixon, a member of the Pennsylvania militia, performed the reading, which was organized by the local Committee of Safety.
The reading of the Declaration of Independence was a huge event in Philadelphia, with a large throng assembling in the courtyard of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall).
According to some accounts, the crowd responded to the reading with cheers and acclaim, as well as the firing of guns and cannons.
The Declaration of Independence reading in Philadelphia was only the first of many public readings that would take place in the weeks and months to come.
The Declaration of Independence was read aloud in towns and cities across the colonies, bolstering popular support for the cause of independence and spreading the message of the document’s ideas and goals.
7. The Declaration of Independence was not universally accepted.
The Declaration of Independence was a daring and contentious statement that signaled a major rupture with the British Empire and the colonial system that had controlled North America for more than a century.
Although the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, it was not uniformly applauded or embraced by the colonies, many of whom remained loyal to the British monarchy and opposed the concept of American independence.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, many colonists remained neutral or actively fought the idea of independence.
These colonists, known as Loyalists, were concentrated in specific areas of the colonies, particularly in the middle and southern provinces, where Anglican churches and loyalist political figures were prominent.
According to the Loyalists, the Declaration of Independence was a dangerous and radical text that would lead to turmoil, violence, and anarchy. They argued that the American colonies would benefit more from being part of the British Empire, with its strong political institutions, legal safeguards, and economic prospects.
Despite the Loyalists’ opposition, the Declaration of Independence’s concepts and principles proved to be a potent rallying cry for the American colonies who backed the cause of independence.
The declaration aided in uniting the colonies around a single goal and inspiring ordinary people to join the fight for liberty and democracy.
The Revolutionary War raged on for several years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, with numerous ups and downs for both American and British armies.
However, the Declaration’s values and aspirations continued to inspire American colonists throughout the battle, and they eventually won their fight for independence.
8. The original Declaration of Independence ca be viewed in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.
The original Declaration of Independence is now maintained under rigorous security and meticulously conserved for future generations in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.
The document is one of the best-preserved and meticulously maintained historical treasures in the country, and it is guarded by advanced security measures such as temperature and humidity controls, fire suppression systems, and electronic surveillance.
The original Declaration of Independence was written by hand on parchment, a sort of animal skin. It measures roughly 29 inches by 24 inches and bears the iconic signatures of the fifty-six members of the Continental Congress who signed it on July 4, 1776.
Thanks to the National Archives and Records Administration’s work, the document is a miracle of historical preservation and protection (NARA). The National Archives and Records Administration is in charge of the care and upkeep of the Declaration of Independence, as well as many other important historical documents and artifacts.
The National Archives also includes many other important historical papers and artifacts, including the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation, in addition to the original Declaration of Independence.
These texts serve as crucial reminders of the United States’ rich and complex history, and they continue to inspire people all over the world who strive for democracy, human rights, and individual liberty.
9. It was hidden during WWII.
During WWII, the United States went to great lengths to secure its most prized historical relics, including the Declaration of Independence, from potential harm or destruction.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States entered World War II, and there was rising concern that enemy troops may target the country’s most vital historical archives.
As a result, the Declaration of Independence and other valuable items were carefully packed and relocated to a succession of secure places.
The documents were first transferred from the Library of Congress to Fort Knox, a United States Army station in Kentucky, where they were stored in a vault alongside the country’s gold reserves.
They were later relocated to the Virginia mountains and kept in a secret facility designed to withstand a nuclear assault.
Throughout the conflict, the records were held under great security, with just a few persons having access to them. To avoid any potential leaks or security breaches, the shift to these covert places was kept hidden from the general public.
Following the end of the war, the documents were restored to their original home at the Library of Congress. The meticulous planning and execution of this operation guaranteed that these valuable historical relics were safeguarded and preserved for future generations.
10. It led to riots in New York.
After news of the Declaration of Independence circulated, there were riots in New York City, and the city remained a hotbed of Loyalist fervor throughout the Revolutionary War.
During the Revolutionary War, New York was a strategically important city because it was a large port and a vital transit center for troops and supplies. The city also housed a sizable number of Loyalists, who supported the British crown and opposed the idea of American independence.
In July 1776, news of the Declaration of Independence ignited a wave of riots and bloodshed in New York City. Loyalist mobs flocked to the streets, assaulting independence supporters and vandalizing property. The rioting raged on for several days before being brought under control by American troops who arrived to restore order.
Despite American attempts, New York City remained a stronghold of Loyalist sympathy throughout the Revolutionary War. From 1776 to 1783, the city was controlled by the British, and it was the site of several key engagements, notably the Battle of Long Island and the Battle of Brooklyn.
The riots in New York City in the aftermath of the Declaration of Independence were just one example of the complicated and often violent struggle for independence that raged in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.