The American Revolutionary War: Declaration of Independence (July 1776)

Figure 1.--The Liberty Bell is a major Anerican icon and commonly associated with the Declaration of Independence. It was, however, created to commemorate the golden anniversary of William Penn's Charter for the Pennsylvania colony. It was one of the most important colonial charters. The bell was hung in the belfry of the colonial Pennsylvania state house (Independence Hall), but it may or msy not hsve been rung when the Declaration of Independence was approved. The bell became a national symbol as it was adopted by the Abolition Movement later in the 19th century. After the Civil War it was employed on national tours aimed at binding North and South back together. Source: William Ferguson collection.

The Continental Congress finally decided on a break with Britain, A Committe was chosen to draft a formal document. Massachusettes delegate John Adams suggested that Virgininian Thomas Jefferson draft it. The fighting at the time was confined to Massaschusetts and Adams saw it was important to involve Virginia. And Adams knew that Jefferson was an elegant writer. Jefferson drafted it (June 11-18, 1776). The resulting document was only minimally edited by Franklin and Adams, but caused a firestorm of debate wjen presented to Congress, but in the end, Jefferson's draft was largely approved. The resulting document is a key American symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most important contribution to the cause. One notable aspect of the final document was that it was an inditement of King George and his policies. While it is true that the King took up the cause of defeating the Colonists, it was largely Parliament thet adopted the policies that brought onncolmial resistince to the Crown and eventually Revolution. It was decided, however, that blaning the crisis in the King rather than Parliament that was more i tune with the Enlidhment thought in which the Patriot cause was infused. Some of the phrases are a critical part of the American lexicon. Jefferson beautifully and consisely expressed the convictions that had slowly taken root in America. The political philosophy of the Declaration were based on the ideals of individual liberty conceived by John Locke and the French philosophers. Jefferson described the philosophy as "self-evident truths". He then listed grievances against the King to justify the rupture of ties with Britain that the Congress had decided to take. It became one of the great documents of democracy and liberty beginning with the Magna Carta.


Barry, John D. "Editing the Declaration of Indeoendence" (September 11, 2011).


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Created: 7:29 AM 5/22/2011
Last updated: 2:39 AM 3/25/2015