[1776] - American Declaration of Independence

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between 11 and 28 June 1776, the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on 4 July. It announced that the thirteen American colonies at war with Great Britain were independent states and no longer part of the British Empire. Based firmly on the theory of natural rights, the Declaration justified independence by listing colonial grievances against George III. Originally printed and distributed as a broadside, the Declaration in fact attracted little attention in the years immediately following independence: George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights proved to be more influential. Jefferson’s Declaration, however, grew in stature and significance throughout the nineteenth century. Abraham Lincoln repeatedly emphasized its significance throughout the 1850s and 1860s, arguing that it was a statement of principles through which the American Constitution should be interpreted.

Useful Links and Further Reading