The Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Conflict: American Revolution
Type of Action: Political Operation
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Forces: Not Applicable
Until 1776, the skirmishes, political turmoil, and economic hardships of the growing conflict that would become known as the American Revolution were occurring as a series of reactions to the activities of the English Monarchy, her Ministry and her Armed Forces. No single guiding force or plan of action drove the American actions, nor were they always well coordinated or planned. Though much emotion and energy was being put into the American actions there was no agreement as to what goal those actions were seeking to obtain.
The sentiment of many was one of protest, rather than rebellion. They felt abused by English Colonial practices and finally were driven to force, or support of force, to draw a line where they would no longer tolerate the English policies. However, their goal was to draw attention to their objections and to compel England to realize the error of its ways. In this fashion compromise could be reached and English Colonial Policies altered. But never did these men desire to separate themselves and their land from Mother England. These men considered themselves Englishmen as well as Americans and did not want to change that
This love of England, however, was not the sentiment of all. A great many men felt that America was an entity unto itself separate from England in many ways other than the immense ocean between them. These men felt that American ties to England were of no use to America and only benefited England. English restrictions upon Colonial trade, forcing them to trade only with England, limited the potentials for profit and trade. Also English restrictions on American Westward expansion angered many who saw great opportunity in the vast frontiers. There were many who felt a personal and ideological affront at the English concepts of Nobility and Monarchy, which doomed Americans to a permanent second class status. Finally there were men who had perhaps had no strong political inclination until the fighting had begun. Each battle and each casualty and British atrocity evidenced to these men a tyranny which drove them to great anger. To all of these Americans, there could be only one answer, only one just result from the troubles which were consuming the Americas, total independence from England.
By the spring of 1776 it was clear that some decision must be made between these two view points, Reconciliation versus Independence. Hostilities had been ongoing for a year. Hundreds had already died. Armies were camped facing each other with loaded guns. Delay would bring more battle and more deaths. Which each death the prospects for peaceful resolution dimmed as the populace and leaders of both sides became more enraged. If reconciliation were to be the goal, it must be attained at once and the American forces commanded accordingly to minimize the risk of further bloodshed. If it be independence, then the colonial forces would need to be increased and directed accordingly.
The weight of this decision lay upon the shoulders of the defacto leaders of the American Colonies, the Continental Congress sitting in Philadelphia. These men were as divided as the Colonies they represented. Furthermore they were the delegates of the various State assemblies which had sent them and were therefore obligated to consider their desires as well. Finally these men were well aware of the magnitude of the decisions they were being called upon to make. These factors naturally lead to indecision and delay.
The two factions of Reconciliation and Independence debated and tried to persuade one another and coopt members from the opposition into their camp while they acted on other matters. Yet all the time they were directing the rebellion the question of their ultimate goal was the proverbial five hundred pound gorilla in the room. Finally it could be ignored no longer. The Independence faction brought the issue to the table and after much debate obtained a majority. Thus was the Declaration of Independence drafted to declare American intention to break from England and form independent American States. This was signed by the members of the Continental Congress, on July 2, 1776, and announced to the public and the World on July 4, 1776. Thereafter the American Revolution would no longer be an uncertain and unguided endeavor with no clear goal. Now America would be a nation fighting for its freedom.
Outside Sources on the Signing of the Declaration of Independence
These pages are located on websites not maintained by the Justin Museum.
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A Users Guide to the Declaration of Independence, An examination of the principles expressed in the document with a timeline and other materials
About the Declaration of Independence, A brief examination with Bibliography
Interpreting the Declaration of Independence by Translation, Examination of foreign interpretations of the Declaration with foreign language text
Declaration of Independence Draft, Text of probable original draft and then final draft with comments
Declaration of Independence Rough Draft, Images of the Actual Document with cross outs and editing by the Continental Congress
The Declaration of Independence, Transcription, The text of the document in full. Other sites with the text are included here as well in case one is unavailable, An Audio Version is available here, Site One, Site Two, Site Three, Site Four, Site Five, Site Six, Site Seven, Site Eight, Site Nine
Declaration of Independence Forum Frigate, a Message Forum regarding the Declaration of Independence
Signing the Declaration of Independence, Brief description of the delegates impressions
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