Declaration of Independence --- Intro - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 ---- CPO HOME PAGE
Lesson 3

Answer: No, we declared independence because Great Britain violated the principles that protect the rights of a free people by limiting the power of government. So we've learned that being "free" means having certain rights, which in turn means the power of government must be limited. Now we're ready to see what the Declaration says our rights are, where they come from, and how, to protect our rights, the power of government must be limited. Read On!

The Organization of the Declaration

The Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of John Adams, Bejamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration. All of these men except Franklin were lawyers or judges by profession, but even Franklin had studied and written extensively about law. Although Congress gave the work of drafting the Declaration to a committee, Thomas Jefferson was the Declaration's principal author. Perhaps because Jefferson and most of his fellows on the committee were lawyers, the Declaration is written in the same way that a judge writes a decision in an important court case.

The purpose of a judge's written decision is to resolve a legal issue, that is, to answer the legal question presented by the case. The judge's answer is called his conclusion. For the judge's conclusion to be valid, it must be supported by an analysis that applies valid laws, called legal rules, to the facts of the case. This careful method of legal writing is called IRAC, short for Issue, Rules, Analysis, and Conclusion.

The issue, the legal question the Declaration addresses, is whether the citizens of the thirteen colonies should "dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them" to Britain, and "assume among the Powers of the Earth" a "separate and equal Station."The Founders began the Declaration in the most forceful way possible, by putting the answer to the question of independence in the very first sentence. Independence was not a maybe, it had become necessary. To prove that their conclusion was valid, after the Declaration's first two paragraphs the Founders submitted the facts of the case "to a candid World." The facts consisted of the 27 complaints against "the present King of Great Britain" we examined on Page 2. The complaints demonstrated that the King's actions established a "History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations" that made him "unfit to be the Ruler of a free People." The King had violated the rules that determine what is right and wrong in the relationship between a free government and its citizens.

But what rules did the Founders say established this standard of right and wrong, and justified our assuming a separate and equal station?

The First Paragraph of the Declaration

"When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and eqaul Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation."

The Final Sentences of the Declaration's Second Paragraph

"The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World."

The 27 complaints follow the second paragraph.

The Final Sentence of the Declaration's Fourth Paragraph

after the 27 complaints.

"A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People."


Question: To whom did the Founders submit the facts in the Declaration to judge the case for Independence?

On to Page 4