John Trumbull's painting "Declaration of Independence" depicts the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress.

How the Declaration of Independence wooed Americans away from Britain

Cutting ties with a king might have seemed like "Common Sense" in the 1770s, but the desire was not unanimous among the colonists—until the Declaration convinced them otherwise.

John Trumbull's painting "Declaration of Independence" depicts the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the $2 bill. The original hangs in the Capitol rotunda.
Image courtesy of the Picture Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

In perhaps the most famous words from the Declaration of Independence—“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"—the founders of the United States define the rights that a good government must secure and protect. If these rights were trampled, then that was grounds for divorcing the tyrant, but not everybody was keen to break up with Britain and King George III. 

Slowly but surely, the Founders had to make a case for freedom, convincing reluctant individuals and colonies—even after hostilities had broken out. The Declaration of Independence is the culmination of that effort, carefully explaining, point by point, why the colonists had no choice but to separate from "Mother England." 

The Declaration of Independence is a relatively short document, little more than 1,300 words, but it was the result of a long struggle, one that had been simmering between Britain and its North American colonies for more than a decade. By 1775, tensions had risen between the Americans and the British in colonial America, resulting in the first battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord that April. 

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