The Declaration of Independence
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by the 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 justice Powers from the consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” (The Declaration of Independence, www.founding.com). Upon these words, the founding fathers of the United States of America declared independence from Great Britain. In July of 1776, the thirteen colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, signed the completed Declaration of Independence and formally marked their separation from Great Britain (The Declaration of Independence, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000). Even more, the document established the new American revolutionary government and officially declared war against Britain.
The Declaration of Independence was the colonists’ reaction to King George’s III new policy of control over all of British North America. Upon gaining new land from France following the French and Indian War, King George and the Parliament enforced a firm command of the colonies and ended one hundred years of salutary neglect. With the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, Tea Act, Quartering Act, and Intolerable Acts the colonists began to abandon their previously peaceful methods of protest such as petition, boycott, and committees. The colonists turned to violence. Arguing that they were being taxed without representation in the English Parliament, the colonists organized the First Continental Congress. In September of 1774, twelve of the thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia to discuss the fact that the Intolerable Acts were unconstitutional. The colonists defended that they had the same civil rights as the English and that they would boycott all English goods. Tensions continued to mount between the colonies and Britain, and as a result, the Congress vowed to meet again in May of the following year in the event that no agreement had been reached.
In 1776, Thomas Paine published his pamphlet, Common Sense, which won over many doubting colonists (The Declaration of Independence, www.americaslibrary.gov). Meanwhile, the king had rejected the Olive-Branch Petition that had been sent by Congress as a last effort at reconciliation. He sent an...