What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?
As the name suggests, the purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to announce to the world, to Great Britain, and to the people of the new United States that the former colonies were asserting their right to "assume among the powers of the earth" the status of a free and independent nation. They had several reasons for doing this at the time they did, however. Let us look at a few:
- They wanted recognition from European nations, especially France, from whom they hoped to receive military and economic aid. These nations were less likely to supply this aid when they perceived the war as an internal struggle within the British Empire.
- They needed to establish state governments. After the royal governments left when war broke out, a sort of power vacuum existed, and revolutionary leaders felt the need to establish new governments was urgent.
- They felt that, after more than a year of war, the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain was beyond saving. The war could no longer simply be about securing the rights of British subjects. The Declaration thus elevated the conflict in the minds of many of the colonists and ensured that no agreement could be reached between the revolutionaries and the British without independence.
For these reasons, the Declaration of Independence was issued.