Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence
In January of 1776, an Englishman named Thomas Paine published a small book
called Common Sense. The book said all kings in general, especially George III of
England, were bad. The book also stated that America must be free to make its own way.
This book became a best-seller. It made Americans believe that America should be a free
and independent nation.
In the spring of 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in a red brick
building called the Pennsylvania State House. It was later called Independence Hall. Many
leaders wanted America to become a separate and equal nation. Some wanted America to have
some self-rule while still being a colony of England. Others were not sure what they
On June 7, the issue came to a head. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia stood
and put a resolution before the convention. Lee said they should break completely from
England. Many delegates were shocked. They decided to vote on this issue on July 1.
A committee to write a Declaration of Independence from England was set
up. The committee was made up of the following:
Ben Franklin was sick that day and stayed home. The other
four men went to visit Franklin at his house. They decided that only one man should write
the declaration. The others then would look at it after it was written. Thomas Jefferson
was given the job because he was a good writer and he was from the South.
Jefferson worked on the Declaration of Independence for three weeks.
Others liked what Jefferson had written. On Friday the 28, the declaration was read to the
The Virginia resolution to break with England was brought before Congress.
The men argued over the words Jefferson had written. By July 4, the delegates were tired
and many were afraid there would be a fight. A vote was taken. Some of Jefferson's words
were changed before the voting. A statement against slavery was taken out.
The declaration was approved by the Second Continental Congress. Fifty-six
men signed the declaration. John Hancock was the first to sign.
A large bell rang out to tell the people of Philadelphia the good news.
The bell was later called the Liberty Bell.
The Declaration of Independence
showed England and other countries that Americans were determined to become
a free nation. If the colonists lost the war, all the men who signed the
declaration would hang. The document was signed in July 1776 in
About one-third of all Americans stayed loyal to the king and to England. They were
called Tories or Loyalists.
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