World Facts

When Did America Declare Independence?

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

On July 4, 1776, thirteen American colonies broke their political connection to the Kingdom of Great Britain by declaring independence. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. By declaring independence, the states became independent nations.

Background to Independence

Between 1760 and the mid-1770s, the British colonies in North America found themselves at constant wrangles with the imperial British regarding frontier and taxation policies. The colonies staged several protests but failed to influence the policies. The imperial British counteracted the protests by declaring martial law in Massachusetts and halting the operation at the port of Boston. The colonial territories also sent a delegation to Continental Congress to formulate a plan on how to boycott British goods. After fighting broke out between the British Forces in Massachusetts and the colonies, the Congress joined with local groups and began coordinating resistance. The informal local governments began the boycott and challenged the authority of their superiors. Despite the actions, the colonial leaders hoped to reach an amicable solution with the British government. Very few members of the Continental Congress were willing to declare independence. By 1775 the view of the Continental Congress had changed. Benjamin Franklin, who was a member of the Secret Committee of Correspondence, told the French and European sympathizers that they were likely to declare independence. Benjamin Franklin hoped to receive aid from the Europeans. Throughout the winter of 1775–1776, Congress deliberated on the way forward and concluded that reconciliation with Britain was not a viable option. Independence was the most viable and favorable course of action. On December 22, 1775, the Imperial Parliament in the UK banned trade with the colonies, but Congress counteracted by establishing ports. The move only worked to sever ties with the British.

Planning for Independence

In January 1776 Thomas Paine published a pamphlet entitled "Common Sense." The publication which advocated for independence was widely circulated and read by thousands. In February of 1776, the colonial leaders discussed the possibility of forming an alliance and began drafting the Model Treaty that would see the colonies form an alliance with France. The pro-independence members wanted to ascertain the they had enough support before presenting the resolution for a vote. Richard Henry Lee introduced the independence bill on June 7, but some colonies stated that they needed more time to deliberate. However, Congress tasked Thomas Jefferson with the responsibility of heading a committee that would draft a declaration of independence.

The Declaration of Independence

John Adams and Benjamin Franklin reviewed the draft presented by Jefferson. They preserved the original draft but made several changes to passages that would attract skepticism. They made changes to passages that blamed King George III for advocating for the transatlantic slave trade and those that British citizens rather than the imperial government. On June 28, 1776, the final draft was presented before Congress. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted. In 1777, the colonies' independence was boosted after being recognized by the Sultan of Morocco. In 1778 a Treaty of Alliance with France was signed, and the US was officially independent. In 1782, Netherlands recognized the independence, followed by Spain in 1783. In the same year, The Treaty of Paris was signed signifying the end of the American Revolution and the recognition of the colonies independence by Great Britain. On the 4th of July every year the United States of America celebrates Independent Day.

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