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Name: _______________________________________________ Class: _______________________________

Declaration of Independence
After a year of fighting, the colonists began to question the purpose of the American Revolution. The colonists no
longer wanted to continue fighting to remain under the authority of the oppressive British King, King George III, but
instead wanted to become an independent nation from Great Britain.
In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress asked a committee to write a formal document that would
declare American independence. Committee members included: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert
Livingston, Roger Sherman, and John Adams. Although he was the youngest, Thomas Jefferson was asked to the
do the writing.

1. What document formally announced that the colonies were no longer controlled by Great Britain? _________
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2. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? ___________________________________________________


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Like most formal documents, the Declaration of Independence started with a preamble. A preamble acts as an
introduction to the document, explaining the purpose. Jefferson broke up the Declaration of Independence into
three main parts, or arguments. The first part focused on the notion of natural rights. Natural rights are rights that
are guaranteed to people at birth.

“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. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men, deriving their just power by the consent of the governed.”

3. What are natural rights? ____________________________________________________________________


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4. What natural rights were identified in the Declaration of Independence? ______________________________


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5. According to the statement, who is supposed to protect the rights of citizens? __________________________
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The second part of the Declaration of Independence focused on how Great Britain and King George III had ruled
the colonists oppressively, or unfairly. Jefferson listed various actions taken by Great Britain that were perceived
as unjust, including sending British troops to occupy the colonies and taxing without colonial representation.

“In every state of these oppressions, we have petitioned for the redress in the most humble
terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose
character is this marked by every act which may be define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of
a free people.”

6. According to the statement, how did the colonists initially attempt to address British oppressions? __________
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7. How did Jefferson describe King George III in the Declaration of Independence? _______________________
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The final part of the Declaration of Independence formally declared the colonies independent from Great Britain by
announcing that the colonies were the United State of America.

“…that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that
are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connect between
them...be, totally dissolved….”

8. According to the Declaration of Independence, what did the colonies become known as when the declared
independence? ___________________________________________________________________________
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In July 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the entire Continental Congress. It was officially
adopted on July 4, 1776. Members of the Continental Congress that signed the document knew that they had
become traitors in the mind of Great Britain, and would be hung if they lost the war. Nevertheless, 56 members of
the congress signed the document, including the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock.

9. When was the Declaration of Independence officially adopted by the Continental Congress? ______________
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10. Why did some members of the Continental Congress refuse to the sign the Declaration of Independence? ___
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