Declaration of Independence
First, let’s define it. The Declaration of Independence was a document written in June of 1776, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2nd, reworded, ratified on July 4th, and signed that summer!
Yes, this is why Americans celebrate July 4th as their “Independence Day.” The Declaration severed ties with the government of Great Britain, meaning the 13 Colonies were no longer under the rule of King George III of England, and they could make alliances with France in an effort to obtain assistance in protecting their statement of independence.
Okay, so that’s the ultra-short version. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
During the 1760s and ’70s, American colonists were increasingly frustrated by policies being made by the British King and Parliament. This included taxation without representation (in Parliament) and stationing soldiers in and around villages and homes. Both of these things would have been against the law in England, so colonists were understandably angry with these acts.
A couple of events of note are the Stamp Act Crisis and the Boston Tea Party.
Stamp Act Crisis
In 1765, delegates from nine of the American Colonies published a letter of protest to the Stamp Act, which was essentially a tax on all paper products in the colonies. That tax money was used to pay for the housing of soldiers in the colonies. The Stamp Act was eventually repealed, but the British Parliament re-emphasized that they were the only ones to make policies and tax laws in the colonies, and the meeting of the nine delegates had not and would not make a difference.
Boston Tea Party
In 1773, the Boston Tea Party sparked controversy and brought the colonists’ anger to the forefront once again. As several ships containing thousands of pounds of tea arrived in the Boston Harbor, Samuel Adams is said to have organized local citizens to prevent the unloading of the tea. If the tea was unloaded, the colonists of Boston would be on the hook for the tea tax, which was being levied on them while they still had no representation in the British Parliament… you see where this is all going, don’t you? The upset Bostonians boarded the ships with tea, dumped the tea into the harbor, and later justified their actions as the only way to escape more taxes without representation. Obviously this didn’t go over well with Britain or the East India Trading company, whose tea was dumped.
Britain responded by creating strict trade laws and sending more troops to the American Colonies. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress (the rebel government established by the colonists) met to discuss their options. They did not believe the British Government would ever “allow” America to do its own thing. So, they went against the British King and Parliament, reopened the ports, and discussed creating foreign alliances. Finally, the motion to create a Declaration of Independence, listing all of the grievances they had against Britain, and explaining why they believed they had a right and duty to create their own government, was made and adopted. A draft of the Declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson, it was read and debated at the Second Continental Congress, and unanimously adopted on July 4th. The last signers of the Declaration put their names on the document in August.
The results of the Declaration are, well, you know, Revolutionary.
So, this year, Americans, as you blow stuff up, eat grilled food, and celebrate “‘Murica” and independence, don’t forget, July 2nd was the actual declaration, government took two extra days to make things official, and it was all to have representative taxation!
I hope that helps. Happy studying, and happy July 4th!