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History

July 3, 2013

The Declaration of Independence: A cherished symbol of liberty

Elegant in language, compelling in reason, the Declaration of Independence is this nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.

Proof that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, this simple piece of parchment changed forever the course of history in ways that wars, which often resulted in the substitution of one tyrant for another, had never.

Approved by Congress on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence embodies the ideals of individual liberty that were so important to the American experience. The declaration contains a long list of grievances against the King of Great Britain. It charges him with tyranny and states, for all the world to see, compelling reasons for breaking the ties between the colonies and Great Britain, and concludes that the only recourse left is to sever all political connections.

The idea of colonial independence gained momentum with the work from another pen, Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense.” Published in January of 1776, it sold by the thousands. Then in June, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented Congress with a motion to sever all political connection between the United Colonies and the State of Great Britain. Congress appointed a Committee of Five to prepare a declaration and the young Thomas Jefferson was chosen to draft the document.

In the beginning, the declaration was viewed primarily as a pronouncement of independence from Great Britain. Each year after its signing, July 4 was considered a day of celebration. It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress officially declared July 4 a national holiday.

Today, the Declaration of Independence has evolved into a powerful symbol of American nationalism. Along with the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States, it represents a major step in the establishment of our unique system of American government.

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