In celebration of July 4, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers discuss the Declaration of Independence, including why it took so long to achieve independence, the utility of the document itself, and strategies for teaching the Declaration.
The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, two days after Congress passed Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence. Despite the incongruity, it is the Declaration that has come to be the defining moment of independence in American history and culture. But just how did the document come about? The political and military circumstances in Congress and in the colonies themselves in the spring and early summer of 1776 gave birth to and shaped the Declaration. Decoding the Declaration, however, requires going beyond the universal preamble, as the document was addressed to multiple audiences and with multiple agendas and goals embedded in it. Recently, historians have begun to rethink the Declaration both textually and contextually, as well as the document’s global impact.
- Why did independence take so long?
- What were the political circumstances in Congress and in the colonies that brought it about?
- How did those circumstances shape the Declaration?
- Why was a declaration necessary?
- Where did the ideas enshrined in the preamble come from?
- What were the Declaration’s goals?
- To whom was it addressed?
- How do historians teach the Declaration of Independence?
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