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Declaration of Independence

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noun
the public act by which the Second Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776, declared the Colonies to be free and independent of England.
the document embodying it.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

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What is the Declaration of Independence?

Declaration of Independence is the name given to the Second Continental Congress’s public act of declaring the American colonies independent from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. The document that formally records this act is also known by this name.

The Declaration of Independence was the formal proclamation that the colonies would now be an independent country separate from Great Britain.

The Declaration of Independence did not start the American Revolution. That began in April 1775 with the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It also didn’t end the revolution. The colonists had to keep fighting the British until 1883 before they won their independence. But the declaration helped the colonists get aid from other countries.

The Declaration of Independence is composed of five sections:

  • The introduction. This states that independence is both inevitable and necessary.
  • The preamble. This states the colonies are right to reject the power of Great Britain because it has not treated the colonies justly.
  • Section one of the body. This section presents evidence of Great Britain’s abuses against the colonies.
  • Section two of the body. This section explains that the colonies shared their grievances to Great Britain and were ignored.
  • The conclusion. The document ends with the statement that the colonies have the right to be free and because Great Britain has taken their freedom, they are no longer part of Great Britain.

The Declaration of Independence was written and accepted by representatives of the 13 American colonies. Collectively these representatives were known as the Continental Congress. The assembly that ultimately approved the Declaration of Independence was the Second Continental Congress.

The Declaration of Independence was drafted by five members of Congress called the Committee of Five. They were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingstone. Jefferson, a delegate from Virginia, did most of the writing.

According to Jefferson, the other members unanimously decided that Jefferson alone would write the initial draft of the document. Franklin and Adams made some changes, and then the document received more alterations when reviewed by the Congress.

The Congress finished its revisions on the morning of July 4, 1776, and officially adopted it on that day. Americans still celebrate the document’s adoption every year on July 4, known as Independence Day.

Why is the Declaration of Independence important?

While the exact phrase itself doesn’t appear in the document, the term Declaration of Independence refers to what the document is and is the name the document is known by.

The 13 colonies had been trying to get changes in how Great Britain ruled them for many years. The Continental Congress was created in 1774 as an official body to represent the colonies to their home country. When Great Britain continued to ignore the colonists demands, the Declaration of Independence was their way of ending the relationship.

Since then, other colonies and similar entities have made their own declarations of independence with documents with the same or similar titles. These include the Haitian Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Irish Independence, and the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire.

Did you know ... ?

It is widely believed that every member of the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In fact, two delegates who approved the document never signed it at all: John Dickinson and Robert Livingston.

What are real-life examples of Declaration of Independence?

Many Americans consider the Declaration of Independence one of the most important documents in American history, and many of them have memorized at least some portions of it.

 

 

 

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The Declaration of Independence is a document that officially records the proclamation that the United States is an independent country from Great Britain.

How to use Declaration of Independence in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

noun
the proclamation made by the second American Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which asserted the freedom and independence of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain
the document formally recording this proclamation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

The fundamental document establishing the United States as a nation, adopted on July 4, 1776. The declaration was ordered and approved by the Continental Congress and written largely by Thomas Jefferson. It declared the thirteen colonies represented in the Continental Congress independent from Britain, offered reasons for the separation, and laid out the principles for which the Revolutionary War was fought. The signers included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Jefferson. The declaration begins (capitalization and punctuation are modernized): “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; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

notes for Declaration of Independence

The day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence is now commemorated as the Fourth of July, or Independence Day.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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