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The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.

After finalizing the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as a printed broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The most famous version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, is on display at the National Archives in Washington DC.

Having served its original purpose in announcing the independence of the United States, the text of the Declaration initially attracted little attention after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, a sweeping statement of human rights:

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.

These words—called by historian Joseph Ellis "the most potent and consequential words in American history" —came to represent an ideal for which the nation should strive, notably through the influence of Abraham Lincoln, who popularized the now-standard view that the Declaration's preamble is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

The Declaration of Independence is currently on display in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives building.


List of Signers Edit

President of Congress

1. John Hancock (Massachusetts)


New Hampshire

2. Josiah Bartlett

3. William Whipple

4. Matthew Thornton


Massachusetts

5. Samuel Adams

6. John Adams

7. Robert Treat Paine

8. Elbridge Gerry


Rhode Island

9. Stephen Hopkins

10. William Ellery


Connecticut

11. Roger Sherman

12. Samuel Huntington

13. William Williams

14. Oliver Wolcott


New York

15. William Floyd

16. Philip Livingston

17. Francis Lewis

18. Lewis Morris


New Jersey

19. Richard Stockton

20. John Witherspoon

21. Francis Hopkinson

22. John Hart

23. Abraham Clark


Pennsylvania

24. Robert Morris

25. Benjamin Rush

26. Benjamin Franklin

27. John Morton

28. George Clymer

29. James Smith

30. George Taylor

31. James Wilson

32. George Ross


Delaware

33. George Read

34. Caesar Rodney

35. Thomas McKean


Maryland

36. Samuel Chase

37. William Paca

38. Thomas Stone

39. Charles Carroll of Carrollton


Virginia

40. George Wythe

41. Richard Henry Lee

42. Thomas Jefferson

43. Benjamin Harrison

44. Thomas Nelson, Jr.

45. Francis Lightfoot Lee

46. Carter Braxton


North Carolina

47. William Hooper

48. Joseph Hewes

49. John Penn


South Carolina

50. Edward Rutledge

51. Thomas Heyward, Jr.

52. Thomas Lynch, Jr.

53. Arthur Middleton


Georgia

54. Button Gwinnett

55. Lyman Hall

56. George Walton

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