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    On this day, a committee forms to write the Declaration of Independence

    On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress asked five delegates to write the draft version of the Declaration of Independence. This excerpt from Jeffrey Rosen and David Rubenstein's pamphlet from our “Constituting Liberty” exhibit puts the Declaration of Independence in context, including Thomas Jefferson's role.

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    On this day, a committee forms to write the Declaration of Independence

    June 11, 2022 by NCC Staff

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    On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress asked five delegates to write the draft version of the Declaration of Independence. This excerpt from Jeffrey Rosen and David Rubenstein's pamphlet from our “Constituting Liberty” exhibit puts the Declaration of Independence in context, including Thomas Jefferson's role.

    When the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1775, it was far from clear that the delegates would pass a resolution to separate from Great Britain. To persuade them, someone needed to articulate why the Americans were breaking away. On June 11, 1776, Congress formed a committee to do just that; members included John Adams from Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, Roger Livingston from New York, and Thomas Jefferson from Virginia, who at age 33 was one of the youngest delegates.

    Although Jefferson disputed his account, John Adams later recalled that he had persuaded Jefferson to write the draft because Jefferson had the fewest enemies in Congress and was the best writer. (Jefferson would have gotten the job anyway—he was elected chair of the committee.) Jefferson had 17 days to produce the document and reportedly wrote a draft in a day or two. In a rented room not far from the State House, he wrote the Declaration with few books and pamphlets beside him, except for a copy of George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights and the draft Virginia Constitution, which Jefferson had written himself.

    The Declaration of Independence has three parts. It has a preamble, which later became the most famous part of the document but at the time was largely ignored. It has a second part that lists the sins of the King of Great Britain, and it has a third part that declares independence from Britain and that all political connections between the British Crown and the “Free and Independent States” of America should be totally dissolved.

    The preamble to the Declaration of Independence contains the entire theory of American government in a single, inspiring passage:

    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.

    When Jefferson wrote the preamble, it was largely an afterthought. Why is it so important today? It captured perfectly the essence of the ideals that would eventually define the United States. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Jefferson began, in one of the most famous sentences in the English language. How could Jefferson write this at a time that he and other Founders who signed the Declaration owned slaves? The document was an expression of an ideal. In his personal conduct, Jefferson violated it. But the ideal—“that all men are created equal”—came to take on a life of its own and is now considered the most perfect embodiment of the American creed.

    When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War in November 1863, several months after the Union Army defeated Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg, he took Jefferson’s language and transformed it into constitutional poetry. “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,” Lincoln declared. “Four score and seven years ago” refers to the year 1776, making clear that Lincoln was referring not to the Constitution but to Jefferson’s Declaration. Lincoln believed that the “principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society,” as he wrote shortly before the anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday in 1859. Two years later, on the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday in 1861, Lincoln said in a speech at what by that time was being called “Independence Hall,” “I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender” the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

    It took the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history, for Lincoln to begin to make Jefferson’s vision of equality a constitutional reality. After the war, the Declaration’s vision was embodied in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which formally ended slavery, guaranteed all persons the “equal protection of the laws,” and gave African-American men the right to vote. At the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, when supporters of gaining greater rights for women met, they, too, used the Declaration of Independence as a guide for drafting their Declaration of Sentiments. (Their efforts to achieve equal suffrage culminated in 1920 in the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.) And during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his famous address at the Lincoln Memorial, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Source : constitutioncenter.org

    Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

    [get-content name="print-page-left" include-tag="false" /] Note: The following text is a transcription of the Stone Engraving of the parchment Declaration of Independence (the document on display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum.) The spelling and punctuation reflects the original.

    Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

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    Note: The following text is a transcription of the Stone Engraving of the parchment Declaration of Independence (the document on display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum.) The spelling and punctuation reflects the original.

    In Congress, July 4, 1776The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, 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.

    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.--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 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 obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

    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 harrass 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 Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits 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:

    Source : www.archives.gov

    How has our understanding of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence changed over time?

    Answer: I think you were really after the second sentence. 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 righ...

    How has our understanding of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence changed over time?

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    Vlăduţ Mihai

    , Master`s History & Modern European History, Faculty of History, University of Bucharest (2016)Author has 245 answers and 618.9K answer views4y

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    What is the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence?

    The famous one:

    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.

    Ernest W. Adams · Follow

    School taught me to hate history, but now I love it.Author has 42.1K answers and 232.2M answer views4y

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    Is the Declaration of Independence linked to the Constitution formally or informally?

    It’s not really linked at all. But people like to cite the Declaration of Independence as if it were Constitutional law. For example the phrase “separate but equal” in the Declaration, which referred to sovereign nations, was used for generations by segregationists to justify keeping the races apart (and of course separate was not equal at all).

    Likewise, the right to life that the anti-abortion crowd like to cite does not exist in the Constitution. If there were an absolute right to life there would be no death penalty.

    The Declaration is politically significant, but its connection to the Const

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    Mike Regan · Follow

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    I think you were really after the second sentence.

    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.

    We have moved onto constantly redefining Inclusivety of people, and their rights.

    Men and Women, Nationality, Race, sex, rights to vote, rights to living how we want.

    We may from time to time find ourselves having to defend these rights, but the Republic will endure.

    2.8K viewsView upvotes

    Laura Hancock · Follow

    a chronic addiction to fiction and dictionAuthor has 4.6K answers and 27.1M answer views6y

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    What is the most important sentence in 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."

    That's pretty much the mission statement of the US, right there. Whether or not it's been truthful or successful in those aims is a matter of opinion, but that's more or less the whole point of the dang place.

    Martin Karo · Follow

    Former Corporate CounselAuthor has 86 answers and 61.1K answer views1y

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    Which state signed the Declaration of Independence first?

    Massachusetts. John Hancock.

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    What is the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence?

    “We find it necessary to separate from Great Britain/secede from the British Empire. These are the reasons we are justified in doing so.”

    Ron Combs · Follow

    M.A., California State University, San BernardinoAuthor has 13K answers and 1.4M answer views11mo

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    What is the Declaration of Independence in US?

    Originally Answered: What is the Declaration of Interdependence in US?

    It is a statement of cause for us to declare that King George III could “stick it in his ear”, that we were through with him, and we were free.

    Mark Daly · Follow

    studies world historyAuthor has 9K answers and 9M answer viewsJan 12

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    What was life like in the time and place when the Declaration of Independence was written?

    That depends on where you lived and your situation. Were you a slave? Were you an indentured servant, bound by a ‘work contract’? Were you a blacksmith or a printer? Your economic status had a lot to do with your living conditions.

    Did you live along the frontier or did you live in a city or town? People along the frontier were in much more danger from raids by the enemy or their native allies. The Battle of Wyoming

    Source : www.quora.com

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