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  • US Declaration of Independence approved, July 4, 1776.

    Beatriz Camino

    US Declaration of Independence approved, July 4, 1776.

    The Declaration of Independence serves as the cornerstone document of the United States of America. Principally authored by Thomas Jefferson, it articulates the reasons why the Thirteen Colonies chose to break away from Great Britain during the American Revolution. This document was officially adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, a date commemorated annually in the US as Independence Day.

    The Path to Independence

    During the early part of their conflict with Great Britain, most American colonists viewed independence as a last resort. The primary issue between them and the British Parliament centred on the colonial identity within the British Empire. They believed that, as subjects of the British king and descendants of Englishmen, they were entitled to the same constitutional rights as those living in England, including self-taxation, representative government, and trial by jury. In England, these rights were exercised through Parliament. However, since the colonists were not represented in Parliament, they sought to exercise their rights through colonial legislative assemblies.

    Nevertheless, Parliament had a different perspective. It acknowledged that the colonists were Britons subject to the same laws but saw them as no different from the Englishmen who owned no land and therefore could not vote. Under this reasoning, it decided to directly tax the colonies and passed the Stamp Act in 1765. When the Americans protested that Parliament had no authority to tax them without representation, Parliament responded with the Declaratory Act (1766), asserting its right to pass binding legislation for all Britain's colonies. Riots in Boston in response to these acts led Parliament to send regiments of soldiers to restore order, resulting in incidents like the Boston Massacre (5 March 1770) and the Boston Tea Party (16 December 1773).

    While taxation was a central issue, the Americans believed their rights were being violated in other ways as well. The Intolerable Acts of 1774 mandated that American dissidents could be tried by Vice-Admiralty courts or sent to England for trial, depriving them of a jury of peers; British soldiers could be quartered in American-owned buildings; and Massachusetts’ representative government was suspended, with a military governor installed as punishment for the Boston Tea Party.

    In the meanwhile, the colonies, though viewing themselves as separate polities within the British Empire, had become bound together by their shared Anglo background and military cooperation during colonial wars with France. Their resistance to Parliament united them further, and after the Intolerable Acts, they began mobilizing militias. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, all thirteen colonies joined the rebellion and sent representatives to the Second Continental Congress, a provisional wartime government. Even at this stage, independence was considered only by radical revolutionaries like Samuel Adams. Most colonists believed their dispute was with Parliament alone and that King George III secretly supported them and would reconcile if given the chance. However, in August 1775, George III issued the Proclamation of Rebellion, declaring the colonies in a state of rebellion and ordering British officials to suppress it. This proclamation led the Americans to see him as a tyrant and hopes of reconciliation with Britain faded.

    Writing the Declaration

    By the spring of 1776, independence was no longer considered to be a radical idea and the Continental Congress recognised that it was essential to secure military support from European nations. In March 1776, North Carolina’s revolutionary convention became the first to vote in favour of independence, followed by seven other colonies over the next two months. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a motion to Congress proposing independence. In the interim, a committee was formed to draft a Declaration of Independence, anticipating the possible passage of Lee's motion. This five-man committee included Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

    The Declaration was primarily written by 33-year-old Jefferson, who drafted it between June 11 and June 28, 1776. Drawing heavily on the Enlightenment ideas of John Locke, Jefferson blamed the king for the necessity of American independence, accusing him of repeatedly violating the social contract between America and Great Britain. He asserted that the Americans were declaring independence only as a last resort to preserve their rights, having been continually denied redress by both the king and Parliament. His draft was revised and edited by the other committee members and presented to Congress on July 1. By then, every colony except New York had authorised its congressional delegates to vote for independence, and on July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration. It was signed by all 56 members of Congress, with those not present on the day itself affixing their signatures later.


    Initially, the Declaration of Independence received little attention following the American Revolution, having fulfilled its primary role of announcing independence. However, interest revived in the 1790s with the emergence of the first US political parties. Jeffersonian Republicans highlighted the Declaration and Jefferson’s role as its author, while Federalists emphasised the importance of the act of declaring independence over the document itself. This view faded as the Federalist Party declined, and the Declaration became synonymous with the act of independence. Following the War of 1812, a broader appreciation for the document emerged, driven by growing American nationalism and interest in Revolutionary history. Nowadays, the Declaration holds significant importance in the US as it embodies the foundational values of American democracy and its adoption is celebrated annually on July 4th as Independence Day.

    Globally, the Declaration of Independence inspired similar documents, starting with the 1789 Declaration of the United Belgian States during the Brabant Revolution. It served as a model for numerous declarations of independence in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Oceania.


                         1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence Silver Commemorative Half Dollar (Only 141,120 pieces struck) AU Zoom inZoom inZoom outZoom outGo homeGo home zoom view US Coins - 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence Silver Commemorative Half Dollar (Only 141,120 pieces struck) AUUS Coins - 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence Silver Commemorative Half Dollar (Only 141,120 pieces struck) AUUS Coins - 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence Silver Commemorative Half Dollar (Only 141,120 pieces struck) AU 1926 Sesquicentennial1976 Isle of Man 1 Crown - Bicentenary of American Independence Silver Commemorative (small mintage) - BU       1876 United States Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Medal (S0-Called Dollar) ANACS AU55                                  George III 1776 pattern Third-Guinea, Year of American was of Independence1939-D rev. of 1940 JEFFERSON NICKEL PCGS MS66George III 1776 pattern Third-Guinea by Yeo PR62


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