The Declaration of Independence: Text, Signers and Legacy

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The Declaration of Independence: Text, Signers and Legacy

After 12 years of tension and fighting, the colonists and their leaders were ready to declare themselves a new country, independent of Great Britain. This lesson examines the motives, the text, and the legacy of America's Declaration of Independence.

The Letter

Dear Mom and Dad,

Two days ago, I made a very important decision. I've got a right to be happy - to live my own life, my own way. So I am writing you this letter to let you know I don't want you to interfere in my life anymore.

For the last few years, you've been taking advantage of me and treating me like a child with your unfair rules, and I'm not gonna take it anymore! You say 'no' to every reasonable request I make and you don't give me any privacy. You won't let me pick my own job, you won't listen to my side of the story, and whenever I try to do something for myself, you say I'm being 'rebellious.' But you keep changing the rules and you won't talk to me, so how am I supposed to know what you expect?

You know I've tried to fix the problems between us, but you just won't listen. So I'm done. I'm moving out, and I no longer consider you my parents.


Your former daughter

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress sent off a letter just like that one. They told King George III that since he refused to respect their rights as British citizens, they were going to disown him. Today, we know this letter as the Declaration of Independence. But before we talk about the document, its context, and its legacy, let's clear up a few common misconceptions. The Declaration of Independence didn't start the Revolutionary War, it didn't establish the government in the United States, and it isn't exactly a legally binding document. But it refocused the Americans' goal in the war, it identified the purpose of American government, and it altered the course of history.

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