Why was the Declaration of Independence written?
The Declaration of Independence was written for two main reasons. It was written to announce to the world that the American colonies were breaking away from the United Kingdom and it was written to explain their actions so that they could gain support in their cause.
One of the reasons that the Declaration was written is made clear by the title that we have given it. We call it the Declaration of Independence because it was written to declare that the American colonies now considered themselves to be independent. It was, in essence, an announcement to the world.
However, if the colonists had simply wanted to announce their independence, they could have written a one-sentence declaration. They did not need to write such a long document. They did write a long document, though, and they did so because they wanted to persuade people that their cause was just. The men who wrote the Declaration knew that they were going to need support in their quest for independence. They were going to need support from as many of the colonists as they could get and they were going to need support from foreign countries. One way to get that support was by persuading people that the United Kingdom was treating the colonies in an unjust manner and that it was morally correct for the colonies to break away. This is why the Declaration sets out a theory of what government is for and when it can be overthrown. It is also why the Declaration lists a series of allegations against the King of England, claiming that he has mistreated the colonies.
Thus, the Declaration of Independence has two main purposes. It is meant as a simple announcement of intent and as a means of gaining support for the cause of independence.
With the onset of hostilities between the colonists and England, the First Continental Congress had initially attempted to make amends with England. In order to maintain peace, the First Continental Congress constructed the Olive Branch Petition, and sent this document to King George. In the petition, the leaders at the First Continental Congress reminded King George that the American colonies were loyal to England. At the same time, the colonists, as loyal British subjects, felt as though they were being mistreated, and the petition outlined many grievances the colonists felt they had endured. This petition went unanswered by King George, and the list of grievances against England expanded. War with England became imminent, and the Declaration of Independence outlined 28 total grievances the colonists had with England. The finality of the document expressed the colonists’ wishes to govern themselves outside of British authority. After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, war with England became imminent, and the signers of the document were all committing treason against England.