On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress came together to officially adopt the Declaration of Independence. This document declared the 13 colonies to be severed from the British Empire and to now form a new nation, The United States of America. It also outlined the colonies’ grievances against King George III and stated how the Americans believed the government should be run. Thomas Jefferson wrote the majority of this document, though the entire Congress revised it before making hundreds of copies to send across the nation. Not only is this a founding document of the United States, it is a major marker in the history of democracy as a whole.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”—Preamble of the Declaration of Independence
“May the foundation of our new constitution, be justice, truth and righteousness. Like the wise man’s house may it be founded upon those Rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it.”—Abigail Adams in response to John Adams, July 13, 1776
The actual name of this document is The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, but it picked up the name Declaration of Independence due to its contents.
The responsibility of drafting the Declaration of Independence was passed from Benjamin Franklin to John Adams because he was not feeling well. John Adams then passed the responsibility to Thomas Jefferson, claiming he was a better writer.
Though the Declaration of Independence now rests behind bullet-proof glass, our Founding Fathers used to roll it up and take it with them to every Congressional meeting.