Declaration of Independence

(1776)

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson’s amended draft of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The initial effort by the framers of the American system of government was not to separate from Great Britain but to be accepted by Great Britain as an equal partner—to be given the rights and responsibilities of full British citizenship. Early efforts to secure such acceptance met with contempt and refusal. By 1776 the Founding Fathers were forced to make a choice: subservience or revolution.

Concluding that independence was their only option, they felt, as men of the Enlightenment, in the Age of Reason, that they were bound by honor to declare to the world the reasons for their radical act. The Continental Congress thus selected a committee of five men to draft a statement calling for independence. That committee—consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman—surprisingly chose the...

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The Declaration of Independence (National Archives and Records Administration)

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