In his pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine argued for breaking away from Great Britain. News of the work spread through the thirteen colonies, and it eventually sold some 500,000 copies.
Paine stated in Common Sense that the system of monarchy in countries such as Britain was not fair. He said that the people, not kings and queens, should make the laws.
The committee members were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Jefferson was the main author of the document.
The Declaration of Independence expresses three main ideas:
First, Jefferson argued that all men possess unalienable rights. He stated that these basic rights include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The writings of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke inspired the idea of unalienable rights.
Jefferson’s second point was that King George III had violated the colonists’ rights.
Third, Jefferson argued that the colonies had the right to break away from Great Britain.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. This act broke all ties to the British Crown. The United States of America was born.
Colonists who chose to fight for independence became known as Patriots. Those who remained loyal to Great Britain were called Loyalists or Tories.
“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Loyalists fled the colonies during the Revolution. Most of them went to Canada.
The divisions caused by the war also affected some key Patriot leaders. For example, Thomas Fairfax, one of George Washington’s closest friends, fled to Britain because he was a Loyalist. Even the great Patriot Benjamin Franklin had a Loyalist son, William.
Other Reactions to the Declaration
The phrase “all men are created equal” failed to mention women at all. This issue worried Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams. In a letter she asked her husband to protect the rights of women.
In addition, the Declaration did not recognize the rights of enslaved African Americans. In July 1776 slavery was legal in all the colonies.
The Revolution raised questions about whether slavery should exist in a land that valued liberty. Some Patriots had compared living under British rule to living as slaves.
The conflict over slavery continued long after the Revolutionary War had ended.
Comparing Strengths and Weaknesses
At the beginning of the war, the British seemed much stronger than the Patriots. Great Britain had more money and resources than the colonies. Britain also had a powerful military.
The British also had to ship their supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. This process slowed down their war effort.
Finally, the Patriots were fighting for a cause in which they believed. On the other hand, some British soldiers were mercenaries, or hired foreign soldiers.
A Call to Arms
During the course of the war, more than 230,000 soldiers served in the Continental Army. Another 145,000 Americans joined local militias.
One question facing Washington…