Jesse Kenney (editor), Derek Molkenbuhr, Tom Dupont


Left to Right, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson
The Declaration of Independence, commonly viewed as our nation’s most prominent symbol of liberty, was drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776 (www.archves.go

v/exhinits/charters/dec;aration.html). A committee of five was set up to work on the Declaration of Independence. The initial members elected by Congress were Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylv

ania, John Adams of Massachusetts, Robert Livingston of New York, and Robert Sherman of Connecticut. The fifth member of the committee, Thomas Jefferson, was selected after Adams lobbied for his addition to the committee, because he thought Jefferson would add balance and was also impressed with his writing ability. Once the Declaration was penned, twelve of the thirteen states voted for independence on July 2, 1776. New York abstained. Two days later, the document was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. (Sabato and O'Connor 35-36)


The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration itself can be broken up into three sections: the Preamble ,the introductory part of the Declaration of Independence, the List of Grievances, the 27 faults of the King of England, and the Declaration for Independence,where they declared they were an independent nation.

The Preamble

The first paragraph is written very generally, with no real references made to either the thirteen colonies or Great Britain. Rather, it describes the right of oppressed peoples to become independent of and separate from the forces suppressing them. The second paragraph, also know as the Declaration of Natural Rights, articulates the rights that all men are entitled to, such as the right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. Additionally, this section states that governments are formed to support these rights that men have, and the power of these governments exist only through the power of the people they represent. Therefore, when a government fails to provide these rights to the people they represent, the people have the right to change their government to allow for their unalienable rights to be protected(www.educatetheelecto.

The List of Greviances

In this section, 27 grievances against the King of England are listed, to prove that he has lost his right to rule by consent ( The first 12 abuses pertain to King George III’s running of a tyrannical authority rather than a representative government. Abuses 13-22 articulate the actions of Parliament that have taken away the colonists’ right to self-rule. The final five abuses, 23-27, refer to specific actions that the King took to wage war against and abandon the colonies.

Colonial Flag
The Formal Separation
The final section is a formal Declaration of Independence. It is here that Jefferson states “That these united colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State Of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved”.
Thomas Jefferson cited many influences while drafting the declaration; first and foremost being John Locke who originally used the phrase “life, liberty, and property”; Jefferson tweaked it to fit what he thought should represent American idealism.

Vocabulary Review:

Preamble -the introduction to the Declaration of Independence

List of Grievances- the 27 faults of the King of England

Declaration for Independence-where they declared we were an independent nation

Section Review Questions:
1. Why did Ben Franklin want Thomas Jefferson in the committee?

2. How many states voted for Independence? What state did not?

3. How long did it take Jefferson to draft the Declaration?

4. What five historical figures set up a committee to work on the Declaration of Independence?

5. What do the first twelve abuses listed in the List of Grievances pertain to?

Related Articles:

Works Cited:


American Government: Roots and Reform AP Edition