The Declaration of Independence, signed July 4, 1776 has a long and complex history, as it was the result of many years of fighting and struggle between the American colonies and Great Britain. By examining the text, which has been transcribed countless times and is currently available in many forms, we can see some arguments made by Americans against the country that at that time controlled the government in the thirteen colonies.
The Declaration begins with a powerful statement indicating that the colonies believe themselves to be entitled to equal ruling power, and because of this, must “declare the causes which impel them into separation.” This indicates that they will argue for this and against their current ruling government.
One key component you must remember is that at this time, Great Britain was a monarchy, meaning it was ruled by one individual, whose authority was passed down through their family bloodline; at this time, this was King George III. And in many ways, the arguments listed against Great Britain are directed at him, as he was the current ruler of the colonies as well, which until the end of the American Revolution, were British territory.
The main argument made in the Declaration is that “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” which is another way of saying that rulers should be elected by the people they represent – a democracy.
There is also a long series of points made in the Declaration that could be considered arguments against continued leadership by Great Britain or King George III, which the document refers to as “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations” resulting in “tyranny.” Some of these points include:
- Laws that the colonies desperately needed to be passed were refused or delayed, and Great Britain (not being firmly present in the colonies) did not understand why these laws were so pressing or significant
- Great Britain had established many offices and legislative officers in the colonies, using up resources while also hindering the growth and autonomy of the colonies
- Armies had been placed in the colonies without consent, in times of peace
- The lucrative trade of commodities around the world had been cut off, which severely restricted the ability of the colonies to trade with other parts of the world. Any exports were considered to be "British" products rather than "American" ones
- Taxes were frequently imposed without consent
There are many additional arguments against Great Britain to be found within the Declaration of Independence. Check out the link below for a transcription of the Declaration of Independence to examine it yourself!