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We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident

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on October 14, 2021 at 7:28:59 am


 "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.” 





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!







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. 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   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 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.)












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













These Truths WIP



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