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Video:What Is the Declaration of Independence?

with Jade Broadus

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most influential documents in American history. Learn more about the Declaration of Independence in this About.com video.See Transcript

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Transcript:What Is the Declaration of Independence?

Hi, I'm Jade and today with About.com, we’re going to discuss the importance of the Declaration of Independence and how it changed America.

The Formation of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is considered one of the most important documents in America's history.

There were many elements that led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. After the French and British War ended in 1763, Britain was in huge financial debt and responded to this debt by taxing the colonists. Following a series of unfair and unreasonable taxes, including the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, and the Intolerable Acts, the 13 colonies met for the First Continental Congress to discuss how to voice their concerns with Britain and King George III.

In 1775, during the early stages of the Revolutionary War, the delegates met again for the Second Continental Congress to further discuss changes in policy.  As the war continued, and books like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense spread, popular feelings pressed for independence.

Who Drafted the Declaration of Independence

In June 1776, the leaders of the Continental Congress assigned five men to draft and write the Declaration, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. 

On July 2, 1776, a resolution was passed declaring American independence, breaking America free from British control. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence that was revised several times before finally being approved on July 4, 1776.

Important Elements of the Declaration of Independence

The most famous line of the Declaration of Independence is said to be, “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.”

John Dunlop printed 24 copies of the Declaration, two of which are now housed at the Library of Congress and one which was George Washington's personal copy.

It is said that the Declaration of Independence has been used as a model for fundamental human rights and many countries have adopted their own versions.

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