Government and Politics

Declaration of Independence

What does the Declaration of Independence say?

The Declaration of Independence, adopted July 4, 1776, has long been regarded as history’s most eloquent statement of the rights of the people. In it, not only did the 13 American colonies declare their freedom from Britain, they also addressed the reasons for the proclamation (naming the “causes which impel them to the separation”) and cited the British government’s violations of individual rights, saying “the history of the present King ‘George III’ of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations,” which aimed to establish “an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

The opening paragraphs go on to state the American ideal of government, an ideal that is based on the theory of natural rights. The Declaration of Independence puts forth the fundamental principles that a government exists for the benefit of the people and that “all men are created equal.” As the chairman of the Second Continental Congress committee that prepared the Declaration of Independence, it was Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) who wrote and presented the first draft to the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.


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