Read the Declaration of Independence

An Act of Treason; Not a Law

The Declaration of Independence was more a process than a moment in history. This act of treason against an empire sparked the Revolutionary War and, eventually, the United States of America. It is not, and has never been, a law, but it is worth reading.

This week, Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence with picnics, parades, and fireworks. In the movie National Treasure, Nicholas Cage’s character steals the Declaration from the National Archives in order to protect it from the real bad guys. It’s a good movie, but it never really explains what the Declaration is.

Thomas Jefferson and a committee of colleagues drafted the Declaration in Philadelphia throughout the spring and summer of 1776. The Second Continental Congress approved it on July 4, 1776. They declared their independence from British rule and their intent to create a new nation. No one had ever dared to try such a bold move. Delegates from all of the original 13 colonies, except New York, adopted the Declaration on that day. They did not actually sign the final version until August 2, 1776. Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

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