5th Grade Declaration of Independence Inquiry Why Do Countries Declare Independence?

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NOTE: The Haitian Declaration of Independence, like the one in Mexico in 1821, followed a war for independence. This situation is in contrast to the situation in the United States and Venezuela, where the declarations of independence came at the beginning of the war for independence.

Haiti’s Declaration of Independence (excerpts), January 1, 1804

Proclamation for a solemn Abjuration of the French Nation.




IT is not enough to have expelled from your country the barbarians who have for ages stained it with blood—it is not enough to have curbed the factions which, succeeding each other by turns, sported with a phantom of liberty which France exposed to their eyes. It is become necessary, by a last act of national authority, to ensure for ever the empire of liberty in the country which has given us birth. It is necessary to deprive an inhuman government, which has hitherto held our minds in a state of the most humiliating torpitude, of every hope of being enabled again to enslave us. Finally, it is necessary to live independent, or die. Independence or Death! Let these sacred words serve to rally us—let them be signals of battle, and of our re-union.

Citizens—Countrymen—I have assembled on this solemn day, those courageous chiefs, who, on the eve of receiving the last breath of expiring liberty, have lavished their blood to preserve it….

If there exist among you a lukewarm heart, let him retire, and shudder to pronounce the oath which is to unite us. Let us swear to the whole world, to posterity, to ourselves, to renounce France for ever, and to die, rather than live under its dominion—to fight till the last breath for the independence of our country….

Swear then to live free and independent, and to prefer death to every thing that would lead to replace you under the yoke; swear then to pursue for everlasting, the traitors, and enemies of your independence.


Head-quarters, Gonaives, 1st Jan. 1804,

1st Year of Independence

Public domain. Rainsford, Marcus. An historical account of the black empire of Hayti: comprehending a view of the principal transactions in the revolution of Saint Domingo; with its antient and modern state. London: Albion Press, 1805.https://archive.org/stream/historicalaccoun00rain#page/442/mode/2up

Summary of Haiti’s Independence Movement

From whom: France

When: 1791–1803

Key leader: Toussaint L’Overture

Important facts

Haiti’s independence movement was the largest and most successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti was the second nation in the Western Hemisphere to win independence from its European colonizer.

The Haitian independence movement was influenced by the French Revolution (1789) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Interesting facts:

Haiti won independence when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France.

Haitian independence led indirectly to the Louisiana Purchase.

The French language is still spoken in Haiti today.

The country was named Saint-Domingue when it was under French control.

At the time of independence, enslaved persons outnumbered owners ten to one.

Created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015.

NOTE: The two maps on this page are screen shots from the website listed below. After clicking on the link, students may move the cursor to see the political development of the region over time.

Maps of the Region before and after Haitian Independence

political evolution of central america and the caribbean 1803 na.pnghttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/political_evolution_of_central_america_and_the_caribbean_1810_na.png

Public domain. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_evolution_of_the_Caribbean. 

Venezuela Declaration of Independence (excerpts), July 5, 1811

Original Translation

Notwithstanding our protests, our moderation, generosity, and the inviolability of our principles, contrary to the wishes of our brethren in Europe, we were declared in a state of rebellion; we were blockaded; war was declared against us; agents were sent amongst us, to excite us one against the other, endeavouring to take away our credit with the other Nations of Europe, by imploring their assistance to oppress us….

Like all the other nations of the world, we are free, and authorised not to depend on any other authority than our own, and to take amongst the powers of the earth the place of equality which the Supreme Being and Nature assign to us.

We, therefore, in the name and by the will and authority which we hold from the virtuous People of Venezuela, DO declare solemnly to the world, that its united Provinces are, and ought to be, from this day, by act and right, Free, Sovereign, and Independent States; and that they are absolved from every submission and dependence on the Throne of Spain.

Public domain. Venezuelan Declaration of Independence and Constitution (Longman and Co., 1812). Rice University Digital Scholarship Archive. https://scholarship.rice.edu/jsp/xml/1911/9253/1/aa00032.tei.html.

Summary of Venezuela’s Independence Movement

From whom: Spain (and later, from Gran Colombia)

When: 1811–1823

Key leader: Simón Bolívar

Important facts:

France’s conquest of Spain in 1808 lead to the crumbling of the Spanish empire in the Western Hemisphere.

Venezuela’s quest for independence was influenced by Enlightenment ideas and revolutions in the United States and France.

Venezuela was the first region in South America to declare independence from Spain.

The Creoles resented high taxes, second-class status, and corruption.

Interesting Facts:

Francisco de Miranda (a friend of Alexander Hamilton and Catherine the Great) launched a failed independence effort in 1806.

Before independence in 1811, Venezuela was part of the Spanish Viceroy of New Granada.

Venezuela’s civil war was between supporters of Spain and supporters of the revolutionaries. 

Venezuela became part of Republic of Gran Colombia in 1819 until it fell apart in 1830.
Created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015.
NOTE: The two maps on this page are screen shots from the website listed below. After clicking on the link, students may move the cursor to see the political development of the region over time.

Maps of the Region before and after Venezuela’s Independence

political evolution of central america and the caribbean 1830 na.png

Public domain. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_evolution_of_the_Caribbean.

Mexico Declaration of Independence, September 28, 1821

Declaration of the independence of the Mexican Empire, issued by its Sovereign Junta, assembled in the Capital on September 28, 1821.

The Mexican Nation, which for three hundred years had neither had its own will, nor free use of its voice, leaves today the oppression in which it has lived.

The heroic efforts of its sons have been crowned today, and consummated is an eternal and memorable enterprise, which a spirit superior to all admiration and praise, out of love and for the glory of its Country started in Iguala, continued, and brought to fruition, overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles.

Restored then this part of the North to the exercise of all the rights given by the Author of Nature and recognized as unalienable and sacred by the civilized nations of the Earth, in liberty to constitute itself in the manner which best suits its happiness and through representatives who can manifest its will and plans, it begins to make use of such precious gifts and solemnly declares by means of the Supreme Junta of the Empire that it is a Sovereign nation and independent of old Spain with which henceforth it will maintain no other union besides a close friendship in the terms prescribed by the treaties; that it will establish friendly relationships with other powers, executing regarding them whatever declarations the other sovereign nations can execute; that it will constitute itself in accordance to the bases which in the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Córdoba the First Chief of the Imperial Army of the Three Guarantees wisely established and which it will uphold at all costs and with all sacrifice of the means and lives of its members (if necessary); this solemn declaration, is made in the capital of the Empire on the twenty-eighth of September of the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one, first of Mexican Independence.

Public domain. Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Independence_of_the_Mexican_Empire?CFID=4854641&CFTOKEN


Summary of Mexico’s Independence Movement

From whom: Spain

When: 1810–1821

Key leaders: Father Miguel Hidalgo, Father Jose Maria Morelos, and Augustin de Iturbide

Important facts:

Peasants and miners were an important part of the revolutionary army.

The revolutionaries were inspired by the revolutions in Haiti and the United States.

Interesting facts:

The move to independence was set in motion after Napoleonic France conquered Spain in 1808.

Priest Miguel Hidalgo issued the Cry of Dolores (a declaration of war) in 1810.

Spain attempted to reconquer Mexico on two occasions between 1821 and 1829.

Iturbide’s rule did not last long. He was overthrown in 1824 and Mexico became a republic.

Mexico lost California in 1848 (the same year gold was discovered) after losing the Mexican American War

Created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015.
Maps of the Region before and after Mexican Independence

Public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Non-Native_Nations_Claim_over_NAFTA_countries_1818.png and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Non-Native_Nations_Claim_over_NAFTA_countries_1824.png.

Summative Performance Task

Compelling Question

Why do countries declare independence?

Summative Performance Task

Construct an argument that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing perspectives.
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