The story of the American Declaration of Independence   


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bordering countries of the USA and compare length of border

Mains level: American Revolution

Why in the news? 

July 4 commemorates the 248th Independence Day of the United States, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the foundational document that established the US as a union of states freed from British rule.

Why did the colonists want Independence from Britain?

  • Lack of Representation: Colonists were discontented with British policies that imposed taxes and laws without colonial representation in the British Parliament, which they viewed as unjust and oppressive.
  • Policy Shifts: After the French and Indian War, Britain ended its policy of salutary neglect and imposed stricter controls on the colonies, including prohibitions on westward expansion and new taxes through acts like the Stamp Act and Tea Act.
  • Ideas of Freedom: Influenced by Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality, colonists began to articulate grievances against monarchical rule and asserted their natural rights to self-governance.
  • Resistance Movements: Events like the Boston Tea Party symbolized widespread resistance to British taxation and policies, galvanizing colonial unity and determination for independence.
  • Armed Conflict: The escalation from protests and boycotts to armed conflict (beginning in 1775) underscored the colonies’ resolve to break away from British control and establish their own governance.

What happened in the lead up to American independence?

  • Formation of Continental Congress: Colonists formed the Continental Congress to coordinate resistance efforts and explore avenues for negotiation with Britain, which ultimately failed due to British refusal to grant representation.
  • Boycotts and Protests: Colonists attempted economic boycotts of British goods and engaged in protests against oppressive British policies, marking a period of growing dissent and opposition.
  • Outbreak of War: By 1775, clashes between colonial militias and British troops erupted into open warfare, solidifying the shift from grievances to armed struggle for independence.
  • Declaration of Independence: The Continental Congress formally declared the colonies’ independence on July 2, 1776, followed by the adoption and signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
  • Continental Army and Allies: The colonies secured military support and alliances, crucially from France, which helped sustain their war effort against British forces.

How was the Declaration of Independence formulated?

  • Committee of Five: A committee including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston was appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Role: Jefferson, primarily responsible for drafting, drew on Enlightenment philosophy and his earlier writings to articulate the principles of natural rights and grievances against British tyranny.
  • Drafting Process: The committee reviewed Jefferson’s draft, incorporating edits and revisions suggested by Adams, Franklin, and others before presenting the final version to the Continental Congress.
  • Adoption and Signing: On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by 56 delegates representing the thirteen colonies, solidifying their break from British rule.
  • Legacy of equality and rights as a foundation: The Declaration’s proclamation of equality and rights laid the foundation for American ideals of democracy and independence, shaping the course of American history and inspiring similar movements worldwide.

Conclusion: The Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, marked a pivotal moment as the American colonies asserted their sovereignty, based on Enlightenment ideals, igniting a global pursuit of liberty and democratic principles.

Mains PYQ:

Q American Revolution was an economic revolt against mercantilism. Substantiate. (UPSC IAS/2013)

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