-the Virginia assembly instructed one of the Virginia delegates to the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee, to put forth a resolution of independence before the Congress that “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” -Congress accepted the resolution and in June 1776, appointed a committee to draft a declaration of independence. -The committee included: a. Thomas Jefferson (VA.) b. John Adams (Mass.) c. Roger Sherman (Conn.) d. Robert Livingston (NY) e. Ben Franklin (Penn.) -The committee chose Thomas Jefferson to formally draft the Declaration of Independence. -When asked why Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration, John Adams explained that: a. Jefferson was well- liked b. Jefferson was a good writer c. Jefferson was a Virginian 4. Ideas Behind the Declaration
-Jefferson was greatly influenced by the Age of Reason, or Enlightenment, an eighteenth century European movement that emphasized science and reason as a way to improve society. -The Enlightenment English philosopher John Locke had the most influence on Jefferson. -Locke had wrote that all men had the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. -he also wrote that if a government did not act in common interest of the people (who established government), the people had a right to dissolve that government. 5. Parts of the Declaration a. Preamble -the introduction in which Jefferson explained the purpose of the document (to explain why ) b. Declaration of Rights -Jefferson explained the ideas behind the document (and thus behind the Revolution) -Jefferson expanded on John Locke’s natural rights theme. -these rights were labeled during debate as “inalienable rights”- rights that could not be taken away. -Jefferson also expanded on what is called the social contract theory - that people form governments to protect their natural rights. If the government does not act in the best interest of the people to protect those rights, the then people have the right to revolt and replace the government with a new one. c. List of Complaints -Jefferson included a list of complaints against the King. Twenty-seven grievances were listed. Read this list!!! -Jefferson also condemned slavery in the Declaration of Independence but it was stricken from the document during debate. d. Resolution -Jefferson expanded upon Richard Henry Lee’s resolution and wrote, “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be free and independent states.” 6. Debate and Adoption -Jefferson thought that he had written an almost perfect declaration. Yet, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress debated and changed the document. *one major change made by the Congress was to remove Jefferson’s attack upon the institution of slavery. -The Declaration of Independence was put to a vote on July 2, 1776 and formally adopted on July 4, 1776. Whether or not the document was signed on July 4 is still in dispute. Many of the delegates were not present in Philadelphia on July 4 so they surely would have signed later- possibly on Aug.
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