THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: JULY 4, 1776

Declaration of Independence

declaration-of-independenceOriginally designed to influence the sometimes reluctant and uncertain public opinion, both in the colonies and abroad (particularly in France, a potential military ally), the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and ratified shortly after by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 — two days it had officially severed ties to Great Britain.

In composing the greatest, most famous legal document, Jefferson, a well regarded writer, drew heavily not only on the ideas of his fellow patriots, but also on the natural-rights theories of John Locke and the Swiss legal philosophy of Emerich de Vattel. The principles set forth in the Declaration, among them the revolutionary notion that human beings had rights — which even governments and kings could not take from them, would nevertheless become a rallying cry for Jefferson and the people in the United States of America.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.

Miller, Laura M. “Declaration of Independence (1776).” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 9. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 139-141. U.S. History in Context. Web.

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