“Taxation without representation!” That was the battle cry of the 13 colonies in America that were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III with no representation in Parliament. As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell any signs of rebellion, and repeated attempts by the colonists to resolve the crisis without war proved fruitless.
On June 11, 1776, the colonies’ Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia formed a committee with the express purpose of drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. The document was crafted by Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer. (Nevertheless, a total of 86 changes were made to his draft.) The final version was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4.
The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed and, on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document.
The Declaration of Independence has since become our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.