As part of the “Committee of Five,” Jefferson is credited, in large part, as a major reason that the Declaration of Independence was written (Declaration). However, it is defining events in U.S. History that preceded the Declaration of Independence that gave rise to the document itself.
During the American Revolution, in 1775, the Second Continental Congress served as the national government for the United Colonies (Declaration). By summer of that same year, Congress had not only established an army to protect the colonies, but it had also created a currency and a post office for the colonies (Declaration). In response to this perceived rebellion, the British Parliament began to take action against the colonies (Declaration). First, Parliament issued a royal proclamation that declared that the colonies “were ‘engaged in open and avowed rebellion’” (Declaration). Soon thereafter, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which gave the British control of all American vessels and their cargo (Declaration). In May 1776, Britain aligned with Germany against the United Colonies (Declaration). These actions, however, did not go unnoticed by the colonies and were not without consequence.
In response to the actions of Parliament, members of Congress voted to cut the colonies’ ties to Britain and passed a series of resolutions in an effort to give the colonies greater autonomy (Declaration). In 1776, Congress passed the Privateering Resolution, the Navigation Acts and the Resolution for the Formation of Local Governments (Declaration).
By May 1776, eight colonies openly supported independence from Britain (Declaration). The Virginia Convention was passed on May 15, 1776 (Declaration). On June 7, 1776, in Philadelphia, Richard Henry Lee (a delegate from Virginia) shared this resolution with the rest of the Pennsylvania State House (Declaration). The Lee Resolution called for the independence of the United Colonies and declared that the colonies should be free of British rule (Declaration). The Lee Resolution began a chain of events that forever changed the face of history.
After hearing the Lee Resolution, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft a statement presenting the colonies’ case for independence from Britain and recessed for three weeks (Declaration). The committee consisted of John Adams (MA), Roger Sherman (CT), Benjamin Franklin (PA), Robert R. Livingston (NY) and Thomas Jefferson (VA) (Declaration). The Declaration of Independence outlines how Britain abused the colonies through an outrageous taxation system, how the colonies tried to resolve their differences with Britain, and then ultimately declares the United Colonies’ independence from Britain (Declaration).
The Second Continental Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776, and the Committee of Five submitted this declaration to the members (Parker 57). On July 2, 1776, the Lee Resolution was adopted by all of the colonies, except for New York (Parker 65). The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, and officially approved by the New York Convention on July 9, 1776 (Parker 74). This solidified our forefathers’ freedom from British rule.
Simply put, the Declaration of Independence was written following a chain of events and abuses that necessitated the colonies’ independence from Britain. The Declaration of Independence freed the United Colonies and provided the mechanism for the new nation to finally and fairly govern itself.
“Declaration of Independence - A History.” Declaration of Independence - A History. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_history.html>.
“Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence: Right to Institute New Government.” Declaration of Independence: Right to Institute New Government. The Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html>.
Parker, Dennis. Jefferson's masterpiece: the story of the Declaration of Independence. Raleigh, N.C.: Dennis Parker, 2010. Print