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Declaration of Independence - Declaration Of Independence

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In Congress, July 4, 1776 The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, perhaps the most famous document in U.S. history, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The preparation of the declaration began on June 11, when Congress appointed a committee composed of THOMAS JEFFERSON, JOHN ADAMS, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, and ROGER SHERMAN. Jefferson actually wrote the declaration, appropriating some of the language in the VIRGINIA DECLARATION OF RIGHTS. Jefferson's famous phrase concerning "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a slight reworking of the wording of the Virginia declaration.

After debate on Jefferson's draft, the Congress made several changes, yet the document remained an expression of the liberal political ideas articulated by JOHN LOCKE and others. The second section, with its reference to "He," is an indictment of the actions of King George III. Like Common Sense, this section destroyed the aura surrounding the monarchy and helped move the colonists toward psychological as well as political independence from Great Britain.

For the members of the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, the declaration served as a vehicle for publicizing their grievances and winning support for the revolutionary cause. It affirmed the natural rights of all people and the right of the colonists to "dissolve the political bands" with the British government. Later generations have laid more stress on the political ideals expressed in the declaration and, in particular, have found inspiration in the phrase "all men are created equal."

Source: The United States Government Manual.

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