(July 4, 1776) Document approved by the Continental Congress that announced the separation of 13 North American British colonies from Britain. The armed conflict during the American Revolution gradually convinced the colonists that separation from Britain was essential. Several colonies instructed their delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia offered a resolution for independence. The congress appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to draft a declaration. Jefferson was persuaded to write the draft, which was presented with few changes on June 28. It began with a declaration of individual rights and then listed the acts of tyranny by George III that formed the justification for seeking independence. After debate and changes to accommodate regional interests, including deletion of a condemnation of slavery, it was approved on July 4 as “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” It was signed by Congress president John Hancock, printed, and read aloud to a crowd assembled outside, then engrossed (written in script) on parchment and signed by the 56 delegates.
Learn more about Declaration of Independence with a free trial on Britannica.com.