Declaration of Independence
In the 18th century, the British colonists wanted independence. Independence was so important to the British colonies, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which was signed by representatives of the 13 colonies. It was a document intended to free the colonists from the British ruler, King George III, whose leadership was abusive. The short document listed the reasons or seeking independence, as well as the charges against the king. The colonists wanted to overthrow the current government.
Independence to the British people in America meant they wanted to govern themselves without interference from the King of Britain. One of the most famous lines ever written in history summed up what the people of the colonies wanted. It is included in the preamble (information about why a document is written) of the Declaration of Independence:
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.
The citizens wanted nothing less than what most people today want throughout the world. The colonists stressed that all people are equal, and the way King George was governing them was not fair, and it was not right. The single line above states that every person is created the same way and have rights that are evident, or obvious, even at birth. The rights are summed up as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The government's job is to make sure those rights are available to all people. King George was stepping on those rights.
The Declaration of Independence also summarized other abuses by the king including interference with colonists who wanted to have their own government. The king would not allow the people to run their own lives and towns. He was charging taxes on colonists without cause or reason. Taxes were being paid by the colonists but they were not receiving anything in return. It was called taxation without representation.
He also took away their right to have a trial by a jury. When people were accused of committing a crime, there was just a single person who decided on their guilt or innocence. The king did not allow people to be tried by a jury, which includes other citizens in the same town as the accused. They also were not permitted to trade freely. If the colonists wanted to trade with other countries or colonies they always had to get special permission. People could not sell their products or crops from their farm to others whenever they wanted.
In addition, the destruction of American life and property took place because the King was not protecting the people or borders of the colonies. American ships were seized and captured at seas, and people acting as soldiers, called mercenaries, were hired by King George to fight against the colonists.
The governments of the colonies tried to make peaceful agreements with Great Britain, but they were ignored by the King George and the other rulers of Britain. The Declaration of Independence is considered to be the founding document of American history, and is included as one of the most important documents ever, along with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The colonists wanted a new nation and did not want to be connected to Great Britain. On July 4, 1776, the United States of America became a country eventually creating its own government.
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