" ... and they shall reign forever and ever ... "
United States Declaration of Independence
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|United States Declaration of Independence|
The Declaration of Independence
|Created||July 4, 1776|
|Location||National Archives and Records Administration|
|Purpose||Declare independence from Great Britain|
The United States Declaration of Independence was an act of the Second Continental Congress, adopted on July 4, 1776, which declared that the Thirteen Colonies in North America were "Free and Independent States" and that "all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved." The document, formally entitled The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America, explained the justifications for separation from the British crown, and was an expansion of Richard Henry Lee's Resolution (passed by Congress on July 2), which first proclaimed independence. An engrossed copy of the Declaration was signed by most of the delegates on August 2 and is now on display in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.
The Declaration is considered to be the founding document of the United States of America, where July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day and the nation's birthday. At the time the Declaration was issued, the American colonies were "united" in declaring their independence from Great Britain. John Hancock, as the elected President of Congress, was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. It was not until the following month on August 2nd that the remaining 55 other delegates began to sign the document.
- "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
As relations between Great Britain and its American colonies became increasingly strained, the Americans set up a shadow government in each colony, with a Continental Congress and Committees of Correspondence linking these shadow governments. As soon as fighting broke out in April 1775, these shadow governments took control of each colony and ousted all the royal officials. Sentiment for outright independence grew rapidly in response to British actions; the options were clarified by Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense, released in January 1776.
Draft and adoption
In June of 1776, a committee of the Second Continental Congress consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut (the "Committee of Five") was formed to draft a suitable declaration to frame this resolution. The committee decided that Jefferson would write the draft, which he showed to Franklin and Adams. Prior to deciding on Jefferson, both Adams and Franklin turned down the offer, citing that if they wrote it people would read it with a biased eye. Franklin himself made at least 48 corrections. Jefferson then produced another copy incorporating these changes, and the committee presented this copy to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776.
A formal declaration for independence was delayed on July 2, 1776, pursuant to the "Lee Resolution" presented by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776, which read (in part): '"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."'
The full Declaration was reworked somewhat in general session of the Continental Congress. Congress, meeting in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, finished revising Jefferson's draft statement on July 4, approved it, and sent it to a printer. At the signing, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having replied to a comment by Hancock that they must all hang together: "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately," a play on words indicating that failure to stay united and succeed would lead to being tried and executed, individually, for treason.
The Declaration of Independence was also strongly influenced by Thomas Paine's pamphlet, Common Sense and from the Enlightenment. It even borrowed one of the sentences; the line "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property" from Common Sense was changed to "among these are Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". "The pursuit of Happiness" was also a line from Common Sense, that was used in a different part of the pamphlet. This is not particularly plagiarism, as Sense was very influential to Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, as well as most Americans as a whole.
Stephen Lucas, who had earlier made detailed comments on this topic, suggested in 1998 that Jefferson was also inspired by the Dutch Oath of Abjuration when he wrote the Declaration. Both documents show tremendous similarities, one of the most notable being the principle of a people's right to denounce and overthrow their leaders should they fail to respect the people's laws and traditions.
The Preamble of the Declaration is influenced by the spirit of republicanism, which was used as the basic framework for liberty. In addition, it reflects the concepts of natural law, and self-determination. Ideas and even some of the phrasing were taken directly from the writings of English philosopher John Locke. Thomas Paine's Common Sense had been widely read and provided a simple, clear case for independence that many found compelling. According to Jefferson, the purpose of the Declaration was "not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."
Armitage (2002) examines the Declaration of Independence in the context of late-18th century international law and argues its legitimacy derived more from its broad appeal to diverse audiences than from its comportment with extant principles of international relations. He analyzes the Declaration's structure and fundamental arguments, concluding that its partial reliance on an individual natural rights political discourse seemed outdated, if not obsolete, in an international arena where positivist jurisprudential philosophy was increasingly becoming the preferred referent. Armitage highlights the consequent apprehension felt by leading American statesmen during 1776-79, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as the manifesto circulated throughout Europe receiving an ambiguous reception at best. Nonetheless, with the de jure acceptance of US independence in the Treaty of Paris (1783), arguments regarding the legal foundations of the Declaration of Independence became irrelevant, as its objective and its success as a document written to appeal to internal as well as foreign audiences became more widely recognized and admired.
As a proclamation, the Declaration was used as a propaganda tool, in which the Americans tried to establish clear reasons for their rebellion that might persuade reluctant colonists to join them and establish their just cause to foreign governments that might lend them aid. The Declaration also served to unite the members of the Continental Congress. The Declaration of Independence was also used as a foreign policy announcement; since the United States were now separate and independent nations, the war was escalated from a civil war to a war of independence, and therefore foreign nations who were enemies of Great Britain were free to intervene, like the French. One in five colonists(calling themselves loyalists or Tories) refused to accept the Declaration and continued to profess their allegiance to the British monarchy, with over 700 of them signing their own "declaration" in a pub on Wall Street. Many were upper class landowners and businessmen who felt the new republic would strip them of their land rights and social class.
The Declaration published outside the Thirteen Colonies
The Declaration of Independence was first published in full outside North America by the Belfast Newsletter on the 23rd of August, 1776. A copy of the document was being transported to London via ship when bad weather forced the vessel to port at Derry. The document was then carried on horseback to Belfast for the continuation of its voyage to England, whereupon copy was made for the Belfast newspaper.
The first edition of the Declaration of Independence was reprinted at London in the August 1776 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine. The Gentleman's Magazine had been following American issues for many years, and its editors (Edward Cave and, subsequently, David Henry) were close to Benjamin Franklin in particular, publishing several of his writings on electricity. The Declaration itself was followed in the September issue by "Thoughts on the late Declaration of the American Congress", signed only "An Englishman". The author identified certain absurdities (as he saw them) contained in the now famous words of the preamble. Most notably, he pointed out the document's inconsistency with the fact that slavery and government was still being practiced in America (emphasized in the following excerpt):
We hold (they say) these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. In what are they created equal? Is it in size, understanding, figure, moral or civil accomplishments, or situation of life? Every plough-man knows that they are not created equal in any of these....That every man hath an unalienable right to liberty; and here the words, as it happens, are not nonsense, but they are not true: slaves there are in America, and where there are slaves, there liberty is alienated. If the Creator hath endowed man with an unalienable right to liberty, no reason in the world will justify the abridgement of that liberty, and a man hath a right to do everything that he thinks proper without controul or restraint; and upon the same principle, there can be no such things as servants, subjects, or government of any kind whatsoever. In a word, every law that hath been in the world since the formation of Adam, gives the lie to this self-evident truth, (as they are pleased to term it) ; because every law, divine or human, that is or hath been in the world, is an abridgement of man's liberty. (The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 46, pp. 403–404)
Distribution and copies
After its adoption by Congress on July 4, a handwritten draft signed by the President of Congress John Hancock and the Secretary Charles Thomson was then sent a few blocks away to the printing shop of John Dunlap. Through the night between 150 and 200 copies were made, now known as "Dunlap broadsides". The first public reading of the document was by John Nixon in the yard of Independence Hall on July 8. One was sent to George Washington on July 6, who had it read to his troops in New York on July 9. A copy reached London on August 10. The 25 Dunlap broadsides still known to exist are the oldest surviving copies of the document. The original handwritten copy has not survived.
On July 19, Congress ordered a copy be "engrossed" (hand written in fair script on parchment by an expert penman) for the delegates to sign. This engrossed copy was produced by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress. Most of the delegates signed it on August 2, 1776, in geographic order of their colonies from north to south, though some delegates were not present and had to sign later. Late signers were Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton (who, because of a lack of space, was unable to place his signature on the top right of the signing area with the other New Hampshire delegates, William Whipple and Josiah Bartlett, and had to place his signature on the lower right). As new delegates joined the congress, they were also allowed to sign. A total of 56 delegates eventually signed (see Category:Signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence). This engrossed copy is now on display at the National Archives.
Three delegates never signed. Robert R. Livingston, a member of the original drafting committee, was present for the vote on July 2 but returned to New York before the August 2 signing. John Dickinson, a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania, was against separation from Great Britain and labored to change the language of the Declaration of Independence to leave open the possibility of a reconciliation with Great Britain. Thomas Lynch voted for the Declaration but could not sign it because of illness.
On January 18, 1777, the Continental Congress ordered that the declaration be more widely distributed. The second printing was made by Mary Katharine Goddard. The first printing had included only the names John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Goddard's printing was the first to list all signatories.
In 1823, printer William J. Stone was commissioned by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to create an engraving  of the document essentially identical to the original. Stone's copy was made using a wet-ink transfer process, where the surface of the document was moistened, and some of the original ink transferred to the surface of a copper plate which was then etched so that copies could be run off the plate on a press. Because of poor conservation of the 1776 document through the 19th century, Stone's engraving, rather than the original, has become the basis of most modern reproductions
Gustafson (2004) traces the paths taken by the original manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights prior to being placed permanently in the National Archives. From 1776 to 1921 the Declaration moved from one city to another and to different public buildings until placed in the Department of State library. The Constitution was never exhibited, and the Bill of Rights' provenance up to 1938 is largely unknown. From 1921 to 1952 the Declaration and the Constitution were at the Library of Congress, and the National Archives held the Bill of Rights.
In 1952, the librarian of Congress and the US archivist agreed on moving the Declaration and the Constitution to the National Archives. Since 1953 the three documents have been called the Charters of Freedom. Encased in 1951, by the early 1980s deterioration threatened the documents. In 2001, using the latest in preservation technology, conservators treated the documents and re-encased them in encasements made of titanium and aluminum, filled with inert Argon gas. They were put on display again with the opening of the remodeled National Archives Rotunda in 2003.
Annotated text of the Declaration
The declaration is not divided into formal sections; but it is often discussed as consisting of five parts: Introduction, the Preamble, the Indictment of George III, the Denunciation of the British people, and the Conclusion.
Asserts as a matter of Natural Law the ability of a people to assume political independence; acknowledges that the grounds for such independence must be reasonable, and therefore explicable, and ought to be explained.
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.
Outlines a general philosophy of government that justifies revolution when government harms natural rights.
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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
A bill of particulars documenting the king's "repeated injuries and usurpations" of the Americans' rights and liberties.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
This section essentially finished the case for independence. The conditions that justified revolution have been shown. Many Americans still felt a kinship with the people of England, and had appealed in vain to the prominent among them, as well as to Parliament, to convince the King to relax his more objectionable policies toward the colonies. This section represents the Framers' disappointment that their attempts were unsuccessful.
|Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.|
The signers assert that there exist conditions under which people must change their government, that the British have produced such conditions, and by necessity the colonies must throw off political ties with the British Crown and become independent states. The conclusion contains, at its core, the Lee Resolution that had been passed on July 2.
|We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.|
The first and most famous signature on the engrossed copy was that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress. Two future presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were among the signatories. Edward Rutledge (age 26), was the youngest signer, and Benjamin Franklin (age 70) was the oldest signer. The fifty-six signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows (from North to South):
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A fictionalized (but generally historically accurate) version of how the Declaration came about is the musical play (and 1972 movie) 1776, which is usually termed a "musical comedy" but deals frankly with the political issues, especially how disagreement over the institution of slavery almost defeated the Declaration's adoption. The Declaration of Independence is also the central subject of the 2004 Disney film National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger. In the film, a hidden treasure map on the back of the Declaration leads treasure hunters to a cache of wealth hidden from the British by Freemasons during the American Revolutionary War.
Anticipating the musical 1776 in a satirical way, Stan Freberg included a segment about the signing of the Declaration in his album The United States of America Volume One to satirize the then-recent "Red Scare". Freberg affected an aged voice to play Franklin, who is skeptical about signing the Declaration document: "You go to a few 'harmless' meetings; sign a few 'harmless' papers; and forget all about it. Years later you wind up in front of a Committee!" Freberg then goes on to sing a song called "A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days". Franklin also asks Jefferson about his spelling. "Life, liberty, and the purfuit of happineff"? (This is a reference to the long S.) Jefferson assures him that this is in, "very in."
There are several popular myths concerning the Declaration of Independence.
- A misconception about the Declaration of Independence is that it was the original document by which the Colonies articulated their rejection of British rule. In fact, the Lee Resolution had already declared independence on July 2.
- Because the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4, 1776 (the date of its approval and adoption by the Continental Congress), many people believe it was signed on that date—in fact, most of the delegates signed the Declaration on August 2, 1776.
- While the July 4 Declaration differed from the Lee Resolution in that it asserted unanimity, the abstaining Province of New York did not pass its own vote for independence until July 9.
- A story repeated on National Public Radio during the annual reading of the Declaration on the Morning Edition program was that King George III's diary entry for July 4, 1776, read: "Nothing of importance happened today". In fact, George III never kept a diary. The error was corrected in 2006. 
- Contrary to popular belief, the Declaration was not signed in public as a group. The delegates actually signed it in secret, little by little.
- Declaration of Independence
- History of the United States
- Articles of Confederation
- United States Constitution
- United States Bill of Rights
- ^ On July 4 the delegates voted on a document with capital-U United; Jefferson's handwritten draft also used a capital-U. On July 19, Congress ordered that the Declaration be "fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile of 'The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America,' and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress." However Timothy Matlack the engrosser, a staff member, made an unauthorized change and used a lower-case u in united. See the discussion by the National Archives, "The Declaration of Independence: A History" at http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_history.html which says "Congress was able to order that the Declaration be "fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile [sic] of 'The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America'"--that is, Congress ordered a U-capital and the engrosser made it u-lower.
- ^ Sparks, Jared (1856), The Life of Benjamin Franklin: Containing the Autobiography, with Notes and a Continuation, Boston: Whittemore, Niles and Hall, pp. 408, <http://books.google.com/books?id=MLAEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA408&lpg=PA408&dq=franklin+%22shall+all+hang+separately%22+sparks&source=web&ots=9tZqaocy0E&sig=JjqhJqfqvWnOqZ-FTAxGfdwaKPM>. Retrieved on 2007-12-16
- ^ Stephen E. Lucas (1989). The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence. U. S. National Archives. Retrieved on 2007-12-15.
- ^ Barbara Wolff. "Was Declaration of Independence inspired by Dutch?", University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998-06-29. Retrieved on 2007-12-14.
- ^ Wills (1992); Becker (1922); Maier (1997).
- ^ a b The New York Times. Loyal to a Fault. Retrieved on 2007-12-16.
- ^ Hillbillies in the White House. BBC. Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
- ^ From the President's Desk. Allison-Antrim Museum, Inc. (July 2006). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
- ^ The History of The News Letter. Johnston Press Digital Publishing. Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
- ^ Declaration of Independence: Right to Institute New Government. Library of Congress (March 20, 2006). Retrieved on 2007-12-28.
- ^ William J. Stone
- ^ National Archives.
- ^ Deutsches Historisches Museum: Description of Print and Text.
- ^ a b c d National Archives
- ^ See generally Morgan (2003).
- ^ Index of Signers by State. ushistory.org - Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
- Armitage, David. "The Declaration of Independence and International Law." William and Mary Quarterly 2002 59(1): 39-64. Issn: 0043-5597 Fulltext online at the History Cooperative
- Armitage, David. "The Declaration of Independence in World Context." Magazine of History 2004 18(3): 61-66. Issn: 0882-228x Fulltext in Ebsco. Discusses the drafting of the Declaration and the international motivations that inspired it, the global reactions to the document in its first fifty years, and its afterlife as a broad modern statement of individual and collective rights.
- Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854-78), vol 8 online edition
- Barthelmas, Della Gray. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence: A Biographical and Genealogical Reference. McFarland, 2003. 334 pp
- Becker, Carl. The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas (1922), online edition
- Boyd, Julian P. The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text (1945)
- Alan Dershowitz; America Declares Independence. 2003.
- Ellis, Joseph J., ed. What Did the Declaration Declare? Bedford Books, 1999. 110 pp. online review
- Gustafson, Milton. "Travels of the Charters of Freedom." Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration 2004 (Special Issue): 8-13. Issn: 0033-1031
- Jayne, Allen. Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology. U. Press of Kentucky, 1998. 245 pp. online review
- Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Vintage, 1997.
- Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (1985)
- Miller, John C. Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783 (1948)
- Morgan, Edmund S. Benjamin Franklin (2003)
- Garry Wills. Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (2002)
- National Archives
- Declaration of Independence at the National Archives
- The Complete Text of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives
- "The Declaration of Independence: A History"
- "The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence" by Stephen E. Lucas
- Audio narration
- Additional information
- The Declaration of Independence, available at Project Gutenberg.
- US History - Declaration of Independence
- Duke University - The Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence
- Library of Congress: Declaration of Independence and Related Resources
- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: Principles of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution
- University of Virginia: Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection
- PBS/NOVA: The Preservation and History of the Declaration
- National Geographic News: "U.S. Independence Celebrated on the Wrong Day?" (July 2, 2004)
- Colonial Hall: A Line by Line Historical Analysis of the Grievances
- Virtualology: A Brief History of the Declaration and Ownership of Dunlap Printings
- Lesson plan
- Object of History: Jefferson Desk
- "An Expression of the American Mind" - Understanding the Declaration of Independence
- Maps, photos, and other media
- "Drafting of the Declaration of Independence. The Committee: Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Livingston, and Sherman." (1776, Copy of engraving after Alonzo Chappel)
- "The Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull
- Interactive High-resolution Viewer with Annotations of the Declaration
- The signers
|Documents||Mayflower Compact (1620) · Declaration of Independence (1776) · Federalist Papers (1787-88) · Constitution (1788) · Bill of Rights (1791) · Emancipation Proclamation (1862)|
|Speeches||Washington's Farewell Address (1796) · Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863) · Wilson's "Fourteen Points" (1918) · FDR's "Four Freedoms" (1941) · FDR's "Infamy" (1941) · Kennedy's Inaugural Address (1961) · Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" (1963) · King's "I Have a Dream" (1963) · Reagan's First Inaugural Address (1981) · Reagan's "Tear Down this Wall!" (1987)|