The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson; and then revised by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Jefferson.
In 1825 Jefferson reflected on The Declaration of Independence and wrote:
“Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, was it intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, written by Bernard Bailyn in 1967 – a work that earned both Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes. Examining over 400 documents Bailyn discovers what was in the collective mind in American in 1776 in The Ideological Origins.
Bailyn reveals, the colonists had four reasons for rebellion.
Jefferson first wrote to the colonists fear of the loss of freedom of religion. Many had left England because of persecution by the Church of England. Events that had occurred in England in the mid-18th century convinced the collective mind of America that the Church wanted to extend its authority to the colonies. This is the real meaning of “no establishment of religion” in the First Amendment: no official state-sponsored religion.
Second, the colonists, the collective mind of America, felt they were becoming under the control of too many officers of the crown, arbitrary laws, and the abuse of power with respect to the rights. The colonists began to favor the natural rights argument that reflects on the writings of philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau: those individual rights come from the Creator, not government. Those rights predate government and therefore government cannot legitimately take them away. This belief of the collective mind in America is in the Declaration in its most famous line:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
The third American worry was the overthrowing their judiciary by the Crown through the denial of trial by jury to making the judges dependent on the Crown. It was to combat these abuses that the Constitution established an independent judiciary.
In 1768, Boston the king stationed of armed troops in the colonies. The collective minds of American colonists were no longer accepting the king’s use of troops to enforce his illegal laws in America, his tyrannical power and arbitrary taxes such as the hated Stamp Act of 1765.
On June 28, 1776, the committee met to read Jefferson’s “fair” copy. They revised the document and declared their independence on July 2, 1776. They officially adopted it on July 4, 1776. That is why we call July Fourth “Independence Day.” Congress ordered that all members must sign the Declaration of Independence and they all began signing the “official” copy on August 2, 1776.
John Hancock, the president of the Second Continental Congress, was the first of 56 brave men to sign the Declaration. At that time announcing independence from Great Britain was an act of treason, punishable by death.
In January of the next year, Congress sent signed copies to all of the states.
Following its implementation, the Declaration was read to the public in various American cities. Whenever they heard it, patriots-The collective mind of America, not only embraced and adopted it but erupted in celebrations.
In 1777, Philadelphians remembered the 4th of July by ringing bells, firing guns, lighting candles lighted, and firecrackers set off. All while the War of Independence dragged on.
When the war ended in 1783, July 4 became a holiday in some places. Speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks marked the day. In 1941, Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday.
The Declaration and the American Revolution have since inspired freedom around the world. As a collective mind, as Americans, let’s not forget The Fourth of July marks the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence. We should remember all of the effort and ideas that went into the document, and about the courage it took for those 56 people to stand up for what they knew was right — independence!
To Read the The Declaration of Independence
To See a rough draft of The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page001.db&recNum=0544
To view an image of the Declaration of Independence http://libertyonline.hypermall.com/Decl.jpeg
To buy: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn