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Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
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Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence
Image Source: National Park Service

Following the skirmishes in Massachusetts at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, more organized engagements took place, with the Americans under Benedict Arnold seizing Fort Ticonderoga in New York in May and the British gaining a costly victory at Bunker Hill in Boston in June. In July, General George Washington arrived in Massachusetts to formally assume command of the new Continental Army. The American invasion of Canada launched in September ended with defeat on December 31 in the Battle of Quebec.

In March 1776, General Washington forced the British out of Boston with siege guns moved from Fort Ticonderoga, and then pursued the British as they moved their forces to New York.

In June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee offered the Congress convened in Philadelphia the resolution that "these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States". Taking up Lee's resolution, Congress appointed a committee to compose the colonies' list of grievances to King George. Committee member Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence during early summer 1776 in his rented Philadelphia rooms, with Jefferson's first draft edited by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. The draft was then presented before the Congress on June 28, which after debate made 39 revisions to the draft, adopting the Declaration on July 4th. Congress also authorized the document's printing and distribution to the colonial legislatures and armies in the field. On July 9, Washington had the Declaration read to the army (see Washington letter to General Artemus Ward). Afterwards, revelers in the city pulled down the statue of George III, which resided in New York's bowling green, and subsequently melted George and his horse into several thousand lead balls for Continental army muskets.

Resources

The Declaration of Independence >> National Archives & Records Administration

The Declaration of Independence: A History >> National Archives & Records Administration

The Declaration of Independence >> Library of Congress

The Thomas Jefferson Papers >> Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson >> Library of Congress

Educational Tools

Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
Images of the American Revolution
>> National Archives & Records Administration

Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents >> Library of Congress

American Revolution >> History Channel