The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 delegates on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It announced that the 13 American colonies were no longer under British rule and that they were now independent states with their own government.
It was first printed by John Dunlap’s printing shop in Philadelphia on July 4th, and distributed throughout the colonies. Thomas Jefferson wrote most of it, but Benjamin Franklin wrote parts as well as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s cousin, Robert R. Livingston.
The colonists declared their independence from Britain because they did not want to be governed by a king or parliament any longer. They wanted to govern themselves under a republican form of government with elected officials instead of having a king or queen rule over them.
The Declaration of Independence has two parts:
Part I describes how King George III was an unjust ruler who violated “the laws of nature” and “the rights of man.” It states that people have a right to change their government if they are oppressed by it.
Part II lists grievances against King George III, including:
He sent soldiers to kill Americans without trial or jury; he taxed Americans without their consent; he stopped American trade with foreign countries; and he tried to make America dependent on England again after it became independent.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history because it established the principles upon which this country was founded: self-government and individual liberty.