Introduction To The Declaration Of Independence History Essay
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As for a dependent country, one of their most desired goals was of course, to become a self-dependent ruling country. However, to achieve this goal is not as easy as to say it. This is something that the majority of the citizens in the country have to agree upon and the congress has to be in favor of this too. When all of these are accomplished, then, a document would have to be drafted and printed out, declaring themselves to be no longer dependent and no longer being one of the colonies anymore. This was exactly the case for the USA's Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The Declaration of Independence was a document written by Thomas Jefferson. The purpose of the Declaration is was already as stated in its name; to declare them to be independent from the British. The Declaration included the explanation on why the Congress decided to declare independence from Britain. It talked about certain natural rights, including the rights to revolutions. It also listed the bad deeds committed on the colonies by King George the Third (Maier, 1997). The Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration on the 4th July 1776, and thus the date is considered as American's National Day.
Prior to the announcement of the Declaration, the relations between Britain and its American colonies were already at its critical level. They often engaged in wars against each other. The Seven Years War also worsened these relations. Britain was in massive financial debts, due to its massive involvements in this war. The British Parliament had to try to find ways to re-finance themselves and one of the methods was to promulgate series of acts to increase the tax revenue from its colonies e.g. the Stamp and Townshend Acts. Although the British defended this decision to be morally and politically just, but from the colonials' point of views, they were not directly involved in the British Parliament, thus had complete rights of not having to pay the levied taxes (Bailyn, 1992). It was a hugely debated topic whether the Parliament had any juridical controls over its colonies. The British Parliament acted only as Great Britain's legislature, the colonies had their own legislatives. Only through the Crown and Allegiance that they were connected to the empire (Middlekauff, 2005). Congress began to pressure King George for apologies following the issue of Coercive Acts which was seemed as a threat to the liberties of all the British American. British goods were also increasingly boycotted by the American colonies (IBD). Of course, King George felt no need to make such apology at all and was even asking several countries for mutual assistances in limiting the colonies' resistance (Maier, 1997).
When 1776 came, desire for independence enormously increased, although some still hoped for mutual negotiations between Britain and the American colonies. In February 1776, Britain had passed the Prohibitory Act, with the objectives of building blockades against the American ports and declared the American colonies to be enemy vessels (Hazelton, 1970). King George hired the German mercenaries to use against the Americans. That prompted the desire for independence to be even stronger (Friedenwald, 1994). Even though, the majority of the citizens were in favor of independence, but the Congress did not have precise authority in doing so, because each representative came from different governments in different states and were bound only to the laws in their state. Unless, the law that they relied on permitted them to vote for independence, then they would not have rights what so ever to vote for the independence issue. North Carolina became the first state to allow its delegates to vote for independence and Rhode Island was the first state to declare themselves independent of the English rulings (Jensen, 1968).
However, some states e.g. New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware still opposed the ideas of independence. Pennsylvania was seen as the key factor, because if this state changed its mind to be in favor independence then the neighboring states would be likely to follow this trend too (Jensen, 1968). John Adams wrote the preamble to explain the purpose of the resolution of independence. American colonies were willing to negotiate for reconciliation with King George, but were refused, and even worse, King George hired foreign mercenaries to suppress the Americans, so the Americans had no choice, but to stand up against the authority of King George's crown. The preamble was passed by the Congress, then on the same day at the Virginia Convention, meetings were arranged to find the right guy to announce the declaration of independence of American colonies from Britain. Richard Henry Lee offered the resolution to the Congress. 'Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved (Maier, 1997). The support for the Declaration of Independence was not consolidated until the final weeks of June 1776.
When the resolution of independence was passed, the next priority was the initial drafting of the Declaration. Some of the wordings were either altered or deleted, e.g. parts of the Slave Trade, by the Congress (Maier, 1997). The first section of the text in the Declaration talks about the Natural Law, referring to people's capabilities of administering politics independently, reasonable and explainable. The next section is the famous section which talks about the principle ideas of the revolution. In this regard, if the government failed to accomplish its main objective; following people's wills and preserving citizen's human rights, then the citizens had the rights to 'alter or overthrow' the government as seemed fit (Becker, 1970). Then, the next section enlisted charges committed by King George. It aimed to criticize King George for that he had violated the colonies' rights, thus, no longer the appropriate ruler for them anymore.
The list of unjustness committed by King George included his refusals to Assents to Laws; the most wholesome and necessary for public good, his forbidden on governors to pass laws of urgent importance, his refusals to pass laws to accommodate the majority of people, frequent dissolves of the House of representatives without any valid cause, made judges based purely on his wills, abdicated the government by waging wars against the colonials and he had done immense damages to destroy the lives of the colonies. This was not all of it though. There were still several more, but it might make this essay unnecessarily longer. In the next section, it talked about the disappointment that the attempts of trying to negotiate with King George to relax his opposing policies towards the colonies, which ended in failures (Ellis, 2007). The final section talked about the fact that the British had produced conditions which forced the change of government and that the colonies could no longer bear the political links with the British and wanting to become an independent state (Ellis, 2007).
Different historians had different ideas regarding the influences which had impacts on the Declaration of Independence. According to Jefferson himself, there were no original ideas, but only sentence of sentiments shared by the supporters of the American Revolution (Boyd, 1999). His most immediate sources were the Constitution of Virginia and Virginia Declaration of Rights (Malone, 1948). However one man whom was regularly referred to as the main influence of the Declaration was John Locke, English Political Theorist. The form of Declaration follows a very similar pattern with that of Locke's Second Treatise on the Government.
After the approval of the final wording of the Declaration, a handwritten copy was sent to the printing shop to be printed. The first official public reading of the Declaration was by John Nixon in the Independence Hall on 8th July (Maier, 1997). After the Declaration was heard nationwide, citizens in each city started to destroy statues and other monuments which symbolized the loyalty to King George. An equestrian statue of King George in New York was pulled down and the lead from the statue was sued to make the musket balls (Armitage, 2007). Copies of the Declaration were sent to Europe and Britain in mid-August. British officials did not make official replies regarding the Declaration, but did secretly responded by creating an article; Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress (Armitage, 2007). It challenged certain aspects of the Declaration.
Even though in the Declaration, there might be a famous quotation of "all men are created equal", but still American slavery was still very much in existence at the time (Maier, 1997). The Abolitionist Movement in the 19th century paid special attentions to the Declaration. For some of the Abolitionist movement activists, they particularly believed in the rights of revolution, in which the current constitutional government at that time should be overthrown and a new form of government to be established with the specific objective of focusing on the principles of the revolution (Maier, 1997). One of the debating issues at that time was about creating the new slavery state. For those who opposed slavery, they claimed that the terms of the Declaration clearly indicated the opposition in itself against slavery, thus the new slave state should not be built, because it would help to facilitate trading of slave even further. On the other side, however, argued that this question needed no discussion, because the constitution did not have the Declaration as one of its parts (Detweiler, 1962).
The issues of slavery in the Declaration became more seriously discussed by Abraham Lincoln. Its meanings were discussed in detail, between himself and Stephen Douglas in 1858, particularly the part "all men are created equal". Whilst Douglas thought that 'all men' referred to only white men and not intended to make different races more equaled in anyways. But, Lincoln argued that the meaning was universal and that it intended to help improving conditions of life for every man regardless of their races (Maier, 1997). Lincoln strongly believed that the "all men are created equal" was the main core for the principles of the Declaration (Wills, 1992). Lincoln's view towards the Declaration proved to be influential as a moral guide of interpreting the constitution.
Prior to the publication of the final draft of the Declaration, several copies were made and proposed to the Congress. Jefferson drafted a four-page Declaration known as the 'Rough Draft' (Gowalt, 1999). After the discussion and editing by the Committee of the Declaration, the new copy was then sent to the Congress, known as the 'Fair Copy' (Boyd, 1976). The Declaration was printed and published as a broadside on the 4th July, therefore known as 'Broadside Copy'. The signed version of the declaration by the Congress is known as the Engrossed (parchment) copy. The Library of Congress used to be the place where the Engrossed Copy of the Declaration was kept, but the US National Archives argued that they, instead, should be the one to keep hold of the Declaration and Constitution. Finally, it was agreed in 1952, that the Declaration be kept to be displayed permanently at the National Archives in the "Rotunda for the Charter of Freedom" (National Archives, n.d.).
The Declaration of Independence shows a strong desire of them to become independent. This is something that other countries should have, and indeed, have already followed. The examples of people standing up to speak for their deserved rights of independence. We should not be scared in declaring ourselves and be independent from the suppressing powers, because if we are, then we would never have the chance to enjoy the independence that we desired so much and might have to be depended and suppressed by those powers forever.
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