Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence, full and formal declaration adopted July 4, 1776, by representatives of the Thirteen Colonies in North America announcing the separation of those colonies from Great Britain and making them into the United States.

The Road to Its Adoption

Official acts that colonists considered infringements upon their rights had previously led to the Stamp Act Congress (1765) and to the First Continental Congress (1774), but these were predominantly conservative assemblies that sought redress from the crown and reconciliation, not independence. The overtures of the First Continental Congress in 1774 came to nothing, discontent grew, and as the armed skirmishes at Lexington and Concord (Apr. 19, 1775) developed into the American Revolution, many members of the Second Continental Congress of Philadelphia followed the leadership of John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams in demanding independence.

The delegates from Virginia and North Carolina were in fact specifically instructed on independence and on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee called for a resolution of independence. On June 11, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman were instructed to draft such a declaration; the actual writing was entrusted to Jefferson. The first draft was revised by Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson before it was sent to Congress, where it was again changed. That final draft was adopted July 4, 1776, and Independence Day has been the chief American patriotic holiday ever since. It is interesting to note, however, that the July 4 document is merely a fuller statement justifying the resolution of independence adopted by Congress July 2, 1776.

The Declaration and Its Importance

The Declaration of Independence is the most important of all American historical documents. It is essentially a partisan document, a justification of the American Revolution presented to the world; but its unique combination of general principles and an abstract theory of government with a detailed enumeration of specific grievances and injustices has given it enduring power as one of the great political documents of the West. After stating its purpose, the opening paragraphs (given here in the form used in the engrossed copy) assert the fundamental American ideal of government, based on the theory of natural rights, which had been held by, among others, John Locke, Emerich de Vattel, and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

"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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Then follows an indictment of George III for willfully infringing those rights in order to establish an "absolute Tyranny" over the colonies. The document states that colonial patience had achieved nothing and therefore the colonists found themselves forced to declare their independence. The stirring closing paragraph is the formal pronouncement of independence and is borrowed from the resolution of July 2.

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Signers of the Declaration

Not all the men who helped draw up or voted for the Declaration signed it (Robert R. Livingston, for example, did not) nor were all the signers present at its adoption. All the signatures except six (Wythe, R. H. Lee, Wolcott, Gerry, McKean, and Thornton) were affixed on Aug. 2, 1776. The first is that of John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress. The remaining 55 (see individual articles on each) are those of Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton.


See studies by J. H. Hazelton (1906, repr. 1970), C. L. Becker (1922, repr. 1962), and F. R. Donovan (1968); D. Malone, The Story of the Declaration of Independence (1954); D. F. Hawke, A Transaction of Free Men (1964, repr. 1989); R. Ginsberg, ed., A Casebook on the Declaration of Independence (1967); G. Wills, Inventing America (1979); J. Fliegelman, Declaring Independence (1993); P. Maier American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (1997); J. N. Rakove, ed., The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence (2009).

Independence, Declaration of: see Declaration of Independence.
This article is about declarations of independence in general. Specific declarations of independence are listed below in alphabetical order. For the painting of this name, see Trumbull's Declaration of Independence.

A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the Territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state. Not all declarations of independence were successful and resulted in independence for these regions.

Declarations of independence are typically made without the consent of the parent state, and hence are sometimes called unilateral declarations of independence (UDI), particularly by those who question the declarations' validity.

Region Declaration Date Year Parent Signatories First recognising state
Albania Albanian Declaration of Independence November 28 1912 Ottoman Empire
United Provinces of South America
Argentine Declaration of Independence July 9 1816 Spain Congress of Tucumán
Armenia Democratic Republic of Armenia May 28 1918 Ottoman Empire Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF Dashnak) Russia
Bangladesh Bangladeshi Declaration of Independence 1971 Pakistan India
Belarus Belavezha Accords December 8 1991 Soviet Union Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus Turkey
Belgium Belgian Declaration of Independence October 4 1830 Netherlands Provisional Government of Belgium
Brazil Brazilian Declaration of Independence September 7 1822 Portugal Pedro I of Brazil
Bulgaria Bulgarian Declaration of Independence September 22 1908 Ottoman Empire Ferdinand of Bulgaria and the Government of Bulgaria
Central America Central American Declaration of Independence September 15 1821 Spain
Chile Chilean Declaration of Independence February 12 1818 Spain National Congress Portugal
Croatia Croatian Declaration of Independence June 25 1991 Yugoslavia Iceland
Dominican Republic Dominican Declaration of Independence February 27 1844 Haiti
East Timor East Timorese Declaration of Independence November 28 1975 Portugal Morocco
Estonia Estonian Declaration of Independence February 24 1918 Russia Salvation Committee
Estonia Estonian Confirmation of Independence August 20 1991 Soviet Union Congress of Estonia Iceland
Finland Finland's Declaration of Independence December 19 1917 Russia Parliament of Finland
Georgia (country) Georgia's Declaration of Independence April 9 1991 Soviet Union Germany
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia's secession declaration January 29 1861 United States
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Declaration of Independence September 24 1973 Portugal
Haiti Haitian Declaration of Independence January 1 1804 France Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Hungary Hungarian Declaration of Independence April 17 1848 Austrian Empire
Iceland Icelandic Declaration of Independence June 17 1944 Denmark
India Indian Declaration of Independence August 15 1947 United Kingdom United Kingdom
Indonesia Indonesian Declaration of Independence August 17 1945 Netherlands Sukarno & Mohammad Hatta Egypt
Ireland Proclamation of the Irish Republic April 24 1916 United Kingdom Irish Volunteers
Irish Citizen Army
Irish Republic Irish Declaration of Independence January 21 1919 United Kingdom Dáil Éireann Soviet Union
Israel Israeli Declaration of Independence May 14 1948 United Kingdom Jewish People's Council United States
Katanga Katangan Declaration of Independence 1960 Congo (Léopoldville)
Korea Korean Declaration of Independence March 1 1919 Japan
Kosovo 1990 Kosovo declaration of independence ? 1990 Serbia Albania
Kosovo Kosovo declaration of Independence February 17 2008 Serbia Assembly of Kosovo Afghanistan
Latvia On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia May 4 1990 Soviet Union Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR Iceland
Lithuania Act of Independence of Lithuania February 16 1918 Germany Council of Lithuania Germany
Lithuania Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania March 11 1990 Soviet Union Supreme Council of Lithuania Iceland
Low Countries (the Netherlands) Act of Abjuration July 26 1581 Spain
Macedonia Independence of Macedonia 1991 Yugoslavia Bulgaria
Mississippi A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union January 9 1861 United States
Moldova Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova August 27 1991 Soviet Union Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Romania
Montenegro Montenegro declaration of independence June 3 2006 Serbia and Montenegro Assembly of the Republic of Montenegro Iceland
New Zealand Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand 1835 United Kingdom Māori chiefs
Northern America
Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America November 6 1813 Spain Congress of Anáhuac
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Declaration of Independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus November 15 1983 Cyprus Turkey
Norway Constitution of Norway May 17 1814 Union according to Treaty of Kiel Constitutional assembly
Pakistan Pakistani Declaration of Independence August 14 1947 British India Iran
Papua New Guinea Independence Day Sept 16 1975 Australia First Prime Minister: Michael Somare
Peru Act of the Declaration of Independence of Peru July 28 1821 Spain José de San Martín
Philippines Philippine Declaration of Independence June 12 1898 Spain Emilio Aguinaldo
Rhodesia Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence November 11 1965 United Kingdom Ian Smith and the rest of the Cabinet none
Romania Romanian Declaration of Independence May 22 1877 Ottoman Empire King Carol I
Russia Belavezha Accords December 8 1991 Soviet Union Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus
Scotland Declaration of Arbroath April 6 1320 England Scottish leaders
Singapore Proclamation of Singapore August 9 1965 Malaysia Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore
Slovenia Slovenian Declaration of Independence June 25 1991 Yugoslavia Croatia
Somaliland Somaliland Declaration of Independence 1991 Somalia none
South Carolina Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union December 24 1860 United States South Carolinians in Charleston
Southern Cameroons Southern Cameroons Declaration of Independence December 31 1999 Cameroon none
Texas Texas Declaration of Independence March 2 1836 Mexico France
Texas A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union February 1 1861 United States Texas Legislature
Ukraine Declaration of Independence of Ukraine August 24 1991 Soviet Union Verkhovna Rada Poland
United States United States Declaration of Independence July 4 1776 Great Britain Second Continental Congress France
Uzbekistan Declaration of Independence August 31 1991 Soviet Union Supreme Council of Uzbekistan Turkey
Venezuela Venezuelan Declaration of Independence July 5 1811 Kingdom of Spain Representatives of the States of Venezuela
Vietnam Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam September 2 1945 Japan Hồ Chí Minh Soviet Union

Independence without a declaration

In many cases, independence is achieved without a declaration of independence but instead occurs by bilateral agreement. An example of this is the independence of many components of the British Empire, most parts of which achieved independence through negotiation with the United Kingdom government. Australia and Canada, for example, achieved full independence through a series of acts of their respective national parliaments.

On the other hand, regions often achieve de facto independence, but do not declare independence. Notable examples include Taiwan, which China has threatened to invade should it officially declare independence. Iraqi Kurdistan was de facto independent from the central Iraqi government between the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War, but could not declare statehood out of fear of losing international support. Such regions often refer to themselves as autonomous regions, with or without the assent of the central government.

See also


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