The Declaration of Independence

by Thomas Jefferson

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What is the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?

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The Declaration of Independence was penned by a committee of representatives within the second Continental Congress. The entire Congress signed the final document after it went through several levels of editing and review.

Throughout the American Revolutionary War, the colonies slowly began to pull away from their ties with Great Britain. They formed their own congress, postal service, military, and currency. In June 1776, Richard Henry Lee suggested to the other members of congress that they should formally state their intention to establish an independent nation, and the concept for the declaration was born.

The purpose of the document was to indicate to Great Britain that they would no longer consider themselves under British rule. Furthermore, the document aimed to explain the many reasons that the colonies felt independence was their best, and only, choice. Among those reasons were the fact that Great Britain had failed to look out for the citizens in the colonies, and that they needed their own government to protect them.

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There were several purposes of the Declaration of Independence. The main purpose was for the colonists to let Great Britain and the rest of the world know that were free from British rule. This declaration stated that we considered ourselves an independent country. We wanted the other countries in the world to know they could now make various agreements with us.

Another purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to explain to everybody why we were declaring independence. We explained that we believed the job of government is to protect the rights of the citizens that it is governing. We believed that if a government stopped protecting the rights of the people, the people had to remove the government and replace it with a new government that would protect the people’s rights. The Declaration of Independence went on to say all the things the King of England had done that were in violation of the rights of the colonists. Thus, we had no choice but to replace the government after attempts to resolve our differences with Great Britain failed to work.

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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.

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