Little did the signers of the Declaration of Independence know that with the signing of this Declaration, the birth of a new nation had begun, and "the shot that was heard around the world", the first shot fired against a British soldier, would be the beginning of the end for Great Britain's rule over the American colonies.
The Declaration of Independence
With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, on July 4th, 1776, the United States of America declared to England, its demand for independence from England. The Declaration contained two parts. One was the preamble, which stated that man was due his god-given rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". The second part of the Declaration was a list of grievances against England and a declaration that the American colonies should be separate from Great Britain.
The Declaration of Independence was actually first debated on June 7th, 1776, in the Continental Congress. On June 11th of this same year, the Congress chose a committee to write a formal document to prepare as a formal declaration of separation from England. The original committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Robert Livingston. The Committee selected Thomas Jefferson to write the first draft which was to be presented to the Continental Congress.
The First Draft of the Declaration of Independence
The original author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, used much of the language of the English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704). Locke's philosophy was sweeping through the American colonies at the time. Locke's assertion was that man's natural rights were a right to have a free life, liberty to live that life, and happiness, which Locke felt was even more important than a guarantee of being able to own personal property.
John Adams and Benjamin Franklin made some minor changes in the language of the Declaration before it was submitted to the Congress on July 2nd, 1776. Congress adopted Richard Henry Lee's resolution, which officially called for the separation from England. Part of what was taken out of the Declaration was a strong statement condemning slave trade, since Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner. The Declaration may have never passed the Continental Congress if this prohibition of slavery was left in, because many Southern colonists already owned slaves and a majority of Northern merchants had ships that were operated by slaves. After this revision, the Declaration was approved by Congress on July 4th, 1776. It wasn't until July 8th that the Declaration was made public by reading it aloud from the balcony of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
The Continental Congress worried about the safety of those who had signed the Declaration, so the names of the men who signed it were not made public until January 18th, 1777. The original Declaration of Independence today is displayed at the Library of Congress. The real author of the Declaration of Independence may have actually been Benjamin Franklin, who in 1775, spoke about the need for a "United Colonies of North America", which was to be an alignment for common defense, where each of the 13 colonies would have its own territories and be independent of the other colonies. Congress would only have authority of affairs outside of each colony. The colonists were still concerned about a central government having too much power of the colonies, since that is the reason many of the colonists came to the New World in the first place, to escape a strong ruling government over all the people.
Regardless, it would eventually be signed and the birth of the United States of America became an annual celebration and the 4th of July became a national holiday. The Declaration of Independence is the cause. Instead of calling it the 4th of July, it is more historically accurate to call it Independence Day.