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We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 7 months, 2 weeks ago


 "We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident" [1776]

The Second Continental Congress defiantly declared a radical and powerful

expression of human and political rights to a “candid world.” 



Colonial Mindset [1767-68]

John Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania  published  from 1767-1768  in newspapers throughout the colonies, England and France  united the colonists against the Townshend Acts "We are but parts of a whole; and therefore there must exist a power somewhere to preside, and preserve the connection in due order."


British Mindset [1767-68] 

Townshend Acts Cut Back. Because of the reduced profits resulting from the colonial boycott of imported British goods, Parliament withdrew all of the Townshend Act (1767) taxes except for the tax on tea.


In response to Parliament's relaxation of its taxation laws, the colonies relaxed their boycott of British imported goods 



1774 First Continental Congress convenes in response to the Coercive Acts


January 1775 - The Conciliatory Resolution


March 1775 Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!


 April 1775– Lexington and Concord  Major John Pitcairn sent to seize military supplies at Concord;  Paul Revere, William Dawes and Dr. Sam Prescott went to warn the minutemen;   Minutemen and British soldiers collide at Lexington and Concord.


Colonial casualties: 49 were killed, 39 were wounded, and five were missing.


British casualties:  73 were killed, 174 were wounded, and 26 were missing.


While the colonists lost many minutemen, the Battles of Lexington and Concord were considered a major military victory and displayed to the British and King George III that unjust behavior would not be tolerated in America. The battles also constituted the first military conflicts of the American Revolution.





June 15th 1775  The Second Continental Congress  appoints George Washington Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army

June 17th  1775 Bunker Hill/ Breed’s Hill: Colonials survived two attacks but ran out of ammunition and were defeated; 268 British dead only 115 colonial dead (350 wounded)  Significance: Colonials hung in against the best Britain had to offer – we could win this war!





Colonial Mindset [1775]

July 8th 1775 Olive Branch Petition


John Dickinson drafted the Olive Branch Petition, which was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5th and submitted to King George on July 8th, 1775. It was an attempt to assert the rights of the colonists,  while maintaining their loyalty to the British crown.


British Mindset [1775] 

King George refused to read the petition and on August 23 proclaimed that the colonists had "proceeded to open and avowed rebellion." 






Timeline to the Declaration of Independence



Thomas Paine's  Common Sense idea of republicanism, the language of the pamphlet 


In clear, simple language it explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776. Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day.


Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people. He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.



The pamphlet — The main argument of the pamphlet did three things.


Point #1  Attacks not only King George,  but the entire idea of monarchy.


Point #2  Challenges English constitutional legitimacy.


Point #3 Challenges all of the prevailing assumptions about government, leading the reader to his call for Independence - it's common sense 



Thomas Paine has the audacity to speak about the necessity and possibility of Independence and stupidity and lack of legitimacy of Monarchy



“Sometime past the idea [of independence] would have struck me with horror. I now see no alternative;… Can any virtuous and brave American hesitate one moment in the choice?”

The Pennsylvania Evening Post, 13 February 1776


“We were blind, but on reading these enlightening works the scales have fallen from our eyes…. The doctrine of Independence hath been in times past greatly disgustful; we abhorred the principle. It is now become our delightful theme and commands our purest affections. We revere the author and highly prize and admire his works.”

The New-London [Connecticut] Gazette, 22 March 1776





TIMELINE - The Declaration of Independence 



June 7, 1776   A precursor to the Declaration of Independence, Virginia's Richard Henry Lee introduces a resolution “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”


June 11, 1776  The Committee of Five    Benjamin Franklin,  John Adams, Robert R. Livingston,  Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson (Chosen to do the actual writing) discuss and debate the language of the document



The Declaration of Independence



THE DOCUMENT - The Declaration of Independence 

The Preamble

Introduction explaining that separation has become necessary to preserve natural law & natural rights. 


Theory of democratic government - 4 Fundamental Principles:


#1 We have “unalienable rights” including “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”

#2 Government is a Compact (contract) theory of government

#3 Intro doctrine of popular sovereignty – power comes from the people

#4 Right/duty of people to revolt to “throw off such Government” that is guilty of “a long train of abuses & usurpations”


The Grievances (27)


Attack on King George III  listing all the things he has done that have violated their natural rights and rights as Englishmen


Ends with the actual declaration. The colonies are now “Free and Independent States”  


This amounts to a formal declaration of war 



The Impact of the Declaration


Immediate Impact: The start of the American Revolution and the eventual establishment of a new nation!!


Long-Term Impact:  Committed America to carry out the highest political ideals of the age, according to Jefferson: “An expression of the American mind.”

The Declaration's  message of “equality” has continued to serve as a model for other societies even though America has struggled with the concept itself (racism; sexism; etc.)

South Carolina votes on the Levy, 1776







HBO's John Adams - The vote on the Declaration, 1776 



American Iconography






Men of the Declaration
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?


Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.


Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?


Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated.


But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.


Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.


Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.


Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.


Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.


John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion.


Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates. Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These men were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education









These Truths WIP



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