The Declaration of Independence is one of the founding documents of the United States that includes the Constitution, the Treaty of Versailles and the Articles of Confederation. The purpose of the declaration was to protest what the colonists considered to be unfair taxation. What it really did was separate the colonists from Great Britain and start a revolution.
Steven Lucas, a Evjue-Bascom professor in the humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wrote The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence, told NPR that although the self evident truths of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were often the most quoted part of the text, the introduction reveals the importance of the document.
“‘Necessary’ is ‘the most important word’ in that section. It makes the case that colonists had no choice. They had to break away. It’s also a word that rebutted a British view. It was very important to the British that the colonists be labeled ‘rebels.'”
The section that Lucas referred to was the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The colonists didn’t consider themselves to be rebels, and they didn’t believe they had a choice in breaking free of the British Empire. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t just an announcement to the British that the colonists, as a separate people, were breaking free. It was an announcement to the world that in their case, revolution was necessary in order to separate from Great Britain. Much of the Declaration of Independence contains the list of grievances outlined by the colonists.
Other facts about the Declaration of Independence include that it was written by committee. Although Thomas Jefferson was the primary writer working on the project, there were four other members of the group that helped to create the final document. The committee actually included Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York and John Adams of Massachusetts. According to Heavy, it was Thomas Jefferson who created the first draft.
The Declaration of Independence was actually voted on July 2, 1776. It wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776. John Adams believed that July 2 would become a national holiday as he wrote in a letter to his wife.
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.”
The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Hancock. Hancock was a wealthy merchant from Massachusetts and the President of the Continental Congress. He signed his name so largely that King George would be able to read it without his spectacles.
The Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 people, effectively separated the colonists from Great Britain. Although there were many copies of the Declaration of Independence that were printed, the original resides in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and contains a mysterious hand print the Archives hasn’t been able to identify.
As reported by WHNT, a broadside that included the Declaration of Independence was read in New York City by George Washington on July 9. The people who heard it got so excited they tore down a statue of King George III and the metal was used to make musket balls for rifles.
During World War II both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were take to Ft. Knox for safekeeping. They were packed in 150 pounds of protective gear and remained there for the duration of the war. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are now protected in sealed containers made of titanium and aluminum where the humidity is controlled to preserve them.
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