Declaration of Independence – Chapter 1

King George III, labeled a tyrant for both his handling of the American colonies and his violent rebuttal of Independence, was twenty-two when he succeeded to the throne in 1760. He was a simple man with simple tastes, defying tradition by refusing to wear a  wig. He was described as remarkably tall and handsome with a cheerful expression and deep blue eyes. Records are unclear as to what transpired over the next 15 years, but by 1775, he was considered a man of strange behavior – mad King George – for which he is remembered today.
 
The King had never been a soldier nor did he ever travel to the American colonies (nor Scotland or Ireland for that matter). But, in 1775, he knew with complete certainty what needed to be done. America must be made to obey. He wrote to his Prime Minister, Lord North, that “I am certain any other conduct but compelling obedience would be ruinous”.
 
War came to America on April 19th, 1775, with the battles of Lexington and Concord – near Boston. But it was the savage brutality at Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill in 17 June that catches most attention today. It was the battle of Bunker Hill that, by most accounts, hardened the resolve of King George. “We must persist”, he said. Bunker Hill was considered a victory by the British but they had still lost more than 1000 casualties before gaining momentum.
 
On October 26, 1775, King George spoke before his parliament: “The present situation of America is an open revolt”, he declared, and he ” denounced as traitors those who, by gross misrepresentation, labored to inflame his people in America.” He had officially declared that America was in rebellion. Yet, while colonists had been engaged in violent conflict, the American Congress had yet to take any real political action. This would happen over the course of the next 9 months.
 
As we continue our journey through the Declaration of Independence, let’s open with some questions for you to test your own knowledge on what you know, and what you don’t know, about our Declaration of Independence.
 
  1. How many people signed the Declaration of Independence?
  2. When was the Declaration ratified by Congress and when was it signed?
  3. How many grievances are listed in the Declaration?
  4. What were the issues [grievances] that led up to the point where Congress decided it was time to declare Independence?
  5. How many of the signers were born outside of the 13 colonies?
  6. Who was the youngest person to sign the Declaration?
  7. Who was the oldest person to sign the Declaration?
  8. Who was the last person that signed the Declaration?
  9. How many of the signers were ministers?
  10. What are the biblical roots of the Declaration of Independence?
  11. Was the country already at war with Britain at the time the Declaration was signed?
  12. Who was the Declaration designed for?
  13. How many members were assigned to write the Declaration? Who were they?
  14. What defines an American? The Declaration or the US Constitution?
  15. How many signers did not have formal college education?
  16. Who embossed the Declaration of Independence? (who actually penned the document you can find in the archives).
  17. Do we have unalienable or inalienable Rights?
  18. Did everyone who voted for the Declaration actually sign the document? Did everyone who signed the document vote for it?
  19. Was declaring Independence unanimous or were there also dissenters?
 
On 2 July 1776, the British would land on Staten Island New York, exponentially escalating the war. That same day the American Congress would vote to “dissolve the connection” with England.  This news would reach New York 4 days later, leading to numerous spontaneous celebrations.  Nonetheless, many at that time, recognized that the war had now entered a new stage; the lines had been drawn as never before. The eyes of all were now on this newly declared nation. It was now in the hands of the colonists to play their part in posterity, which they recognized would end either as a blessing or as a curse. All of this because of a document that only takes 10 minutes to read.
 
As we progress in this series over the next few months, we will work to answer all of these questions and more. We will also break the Declaration down into five digestible components as recommended by experts to help us fully understand what is in the document.
 
In the next Chapter, we will provide background of the Declaration that many may not be aware. What led up to it and what did it take to make it a reality?

 

References:

Allen Jayne, (2015). Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy, and Theology. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 48

Benson J. Lossing, (1870). Lives of the signers of the Declaration of American independence. Evans, Stoddart & Co. p. 292.

Benson J. Lossing, (1888). Our Country: A Household History for All Readers, from the Discovery of America to the Present Time, Volume 3. Appendix: Amies Publishing Company. p. 1-10.

Bernard Bailyn, (2017). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: Fiftieth Anniversary EditionBelknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Anniversary edition, P.162

Bernard Bailyn, (2017). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Anniversary edition, Pg. 180-182

Bernard Bailyn, (2017). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Anniversary edition, Pg. 200-202

Bernard Bailyn, (2017). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Anniversary edition, Pg. 224–225

David McCullough, (2015). 1776, Simon and Schuster

The Declaration of Independence: A History, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Dumas Malone, (1948). Jefferson the Virginian (Jefferson and His Time, Vol. 1 , Little, Brown and Company; 17th ptg. Edition, p. 221

Federalist No. 39, paragraph 2

Ian Christie and Benjamin Labaree, (1976). Empire or independence, 1760-1776: A British-American dialogue on the coming of the American RevolutionPhaidon Press; 1st Edition edition, p. 31

John Adams, (1776). “Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3 January 1, 1776 – May 15, 1776”. Letter to James Warren

John M. Murrin, Paul E. Johnson, James M. McPherson, Alice Fahs, Gary Gerstle, (2013). Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People, Volume I: To 1877, Concise Edition. Cengage Learning. p. 121

Joseph Ellis, (2007). American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic, Knopf Publishing, pg. 55–56

Pauline Maier, (1998). American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition, pg. 53-57

Pauline Maier, (1998). American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition, pg. 125-128

Richard Kollen, (2004). Lexington: From Liberty’s Birthplace to Progressive Suburb. Arcadia Publishing. p. 27

Robert Middlekauff, (2007). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789,  Oxford University Press; Revised, Expanded edition, pg. 241–242

Stephen E. Lucas, (1989). Justifying America: The Declaration of Independence as a Rhetorical Document, Southern Illinois University Press, p. 85 

Stephen E. Lucas, (2012). The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence 

Thomas Jefferson, (1825). TO HENRY LEE – Thomas Jefferson The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816–1826

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