Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was written by the Founders of our nation. It is a special statement that explains why the colonists wanted to be independent.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history. It tells the major ideas that the Founders had about government. The Declaration also contains the Founders' complaints against the British king.

For many years after the colonists landed in the New World, the British government let the colonists govern themselves with little interference. Then in the 1760's, Britain began to tighten its control over the colonies. The British government began passing new laws which taxed the colonists and controlled their trade. The colonists became alarmed and thought these laws threatened their right to govern themselves. Because the colonists did not have the right to vote for people to represent them in the British government, they felt their rights were not being protected. The British felt just the opposite. They believed that since their government supported and defended the colonists, they had the right to tax the colonists and control their trade.

So in 1774, the colonists sent representatives to a meeting called the First Continental Congress to decide how to handle this problem. Some of the delegates to this meeting wanted to stop trading with Britain. Others wanted to fight the British. In April 1775 war broke out between Britain and the American colonies. This war was called the American Revolution. The thirteen colonies became the thirteen original states of our country.

Soon after the American Revolution began, the American colonists created a new government. In 1776 this new government, the Continental Congress formed a committee to tell People why the colonies wanted to be free. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to be the head of this committee. He was an excellent writer. Jefferson wrote a paper that became known as the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by the members of the Continental Congress.

The Declaration of Independence is an important part of American democracy because first it contains the ideals or goals of our nation. Second it contains the complaints of the colonists against the British king. Third, it contains the arguments the colonists used to explain why they wanted to be free of British rule.


 

 Student Activity

Now that you know about the Declaration of Independence, your job is to become one of the signers. Research one of the men who signed this important document. Find out his thoughts and feelings about independence and freedom. Discover what you can about where he was from, what kind of work he did, and his family life. You will role play him in a play that you and your classmates write about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Then perform this play in your school.