Declaration of Independence

  • Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence

In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman to draft a statement of independence for the 13 colonies. Jefferson drafted the document, and after several revisions, it was adopted by the Congress on the afternoon of July 4, 1776.

In exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed in the Declaration the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people, summarizing a philosophy of “self-evident truths” and listing grievances against the King that justified to the world the colonists’ decision to break ties with their mother country.

Today, the Declaration of Independence is the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty and is celebrated each year on July 4th, a national holiday that is considered America’s birthday.The original signed Declaration is safeguarded for the American people by the National Archives and is seen by more than 1 million people each year in the Archives’ Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.

Download a high-resolution version of this document from the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

Past Featured Records
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    Credentials of Jeannette Rankin, the First Congresswoman

    In 1916 – four years before before the 19th Amendment granted women across the country the right to vote – Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress as a Representative from Montana.

    Rankin was sworn into office on April 2, 1917, having presented this credential as evidence that she... Read more

  • George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789
    George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789

    On April 30, 1789, George Washington placed his hand upon a Bible and took the oath as the first President of the United States. The oath was administered on a second-floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President... Read more

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech

    At 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers and torpedo planes attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, catapulting the United States into World War II. In less than 2 hours, the fleet was devastated, and more than 3,500 Americans were either killed... Read more

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture Act
    National Museum of African American History and Culture Act

    Following decades of work to promote and feature the contributions of African Americans, the Act to establish the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was authorized by Congress in 2003. The museum, which will house 36,000 artifacts, officially opens on the National... Read more

  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

    During World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces established a policy that discharged homosexuals regardless of their behavior. In 1981, the Defense Department prohibited gay and lesbian military members from serving in its ranks with a policy that stated, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” In... Read more