The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history, for it proclaims the thirteen colonies to be the United States of America, free and independent forever from British rule.
The document's first section, generally called the Preamble, presents the natural rights of human beings. It is “self-evident,” the signers assert,
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 document then asserts that men create government to “secure these rights,” but when government fails to do so, they have the right and even the responsibly to change it. This is not done lightly, of course, but in the case of despotism, people must throw off corrupt government and make a change for the better.
Indeed, this is exactly what the Declaration's signers believed has happened. The king of Great Britain has far overstepped the boundaries of good government. The document's next section contains a long list of grievances against the king, and these grievances serve as the reasons behind the Declaration. The king interfered with the proper procedure of law and obstructed justice. He taxed citizens without their consent. He deprived them of their liberty in numerous ways. The Americans have tried everything they could, petitioning the king again and again, but the time for petitions is now over.
In the Declaration's third section, the signers explain what they are going to do. They are declaring their independence from Great Britain and establishing their colonies as the United States. From here on, they are “Free and Independent,” and they will rule themselves in all ways. To this, they conclude,
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.