Early American History
The War for Independence
Declaration of Independence, 1776
Independence Day, July 4, 1776
Key Concepts
Thomas Jefferson wanted his words to help the colonists win the war. He carefully stated the facts so people would agree with the cause for independence.

The Declaration of Independence has four parts. The Preamble is the introduction. It tells why the Declaration of Independence was written. It explains that sometimes people must form a new nation. To do this, they must also have very good reasons.

The second part of the Declaration of Independence listed the rights of all
people. It states all people are equal, and have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights cannot be taken away. When a
government tries to take these rights away from the people, the people have
the right to change the government. The people can then form a new
government that gives these rights to the people.

The third and longest part of the Declaration of Independence lists the
grievances or unfair actions of the King and Parliament. It also lists the
steps taken by the colonies to settle their differences with Britain. The third
part ends by saying the King of England was "unfit to be the ruler of a free

The fourth part of the Declaration of Independence states that the 13 colonies
are free and independent states. It breaks all ties with Britain and says the 13 states have the right to make war and peace, to trade, and to do all the things free countries can do.

The Declaration of Independence was given to the Second Continental
Congress and read aloud on June 28. Then the members finally began the
discussion suggested by Richard Henry Lee that the colonies should be
independent of Britain. On the morning of July 2, 1776, the members of the
Congress voted in favor of independence.

Then on July 4, 1776, the members of the Congress approved and signed the Declaration of Independence.

On July 8, 1776, Patriots rang the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The ringing of
the bell was to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The bell was rung every year until it cracked in 1835. The painting, "The Spirit of '76" has symbolized the celebration of the Patriots with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Writing the Declaration
Liberty Bell, 1776
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Additional Information

All people - In 1776, when Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he included a long section in which he described slavery as a “cruel war against human nature.” Jefferson lived in a slave society and owned slaves himself. John Adams spoke out strongly against slavery. Benjamin Franklin helped begin the first antislavery society in America. But South Carolina and Georgia would not sign the Declaration if it contained the antislavery section. The Patriot leaders knew all thirteen colonies had to be united. So as a compromise, the antislavery words were taken out. Benjamin Franklin drew a diagram which illustrated the importance of the colonies being united against Britain.

signed - Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock was the first. He signed with a big, bold signature, “So the King doesn’t have to put on his glasses.” John Dickinson of Pennsylvania refused to sign. But then he enlisted in the Continental army and fought in he war.




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