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The Causa Belli

In an attempt to bring the American colonies, which had enjoyed a relatively high level of autonomy in the British Empire, the British parliament passed some acts to bring the economies of the Empire and the colonies closer. The Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed taxes on most printed items in the colonies, was repealed after being met with strong opposition and protest. However, the British continued enacting the Townshend Acts in 1767 (Yazawa et al., 2011). By 1770, most of the Townshend Act had been repealed, with only symbolic acts left, such as the tea tax. Subsequent events such as the Gaspee affair in 1772, the Boston Massacre on March 5th, 1770, the rescinding of Massachusetts self-governance privileges, and the enactment of punitive legislations against the colonies in May 1773 served to reinforce the idea of independence in the mind of the American colonists with twelve colonies rallying behind Massachusetts to form the continental Congress as a way to coordinate their efforts against the British Empire. However, despite the colonists strongly protesting against the British authorities, the British disregarded their issues and failed to implement meaningful changes to these policies. They chose to institute martial laws in Massachusetts. The Americans chose to take things into their own hands, with the colonial governments openly challenging the authority of British officials (Shea, 2014). Further, the colonists instituted delegations sent to the Continental Congress to coordinate the boycott of British goods.

How it went

April 19th, 1775, signaled the beginning of the armed conflict between Britain and thirteen American colonies seeking their rights within the British Empire, with only a fringe minority of radicals seeking complete separation from the Empire. However, as the situation progressed through 1775-76 and as Benjamin Franklin and the Secret Committee of Correspondence were seeking aid from sympathetic European nations, particularly France, Britain went out of its way to try to assert its sovereignty by use of force, which only reinforced the call for independence as more American saw independence as the only viable solution to the stalemate.

A year late, on April 16th, 1776, North Carolina Revolutionary Convention authorized its delegates to petition for full independence from the Empire and brought a motion to that effect. A draft document drawn by Thomas Jefferson became the basis of the final draft adopted by Congress, with a few changes initiated by Franklin and Adam to remove excerpts that they perceived to be controversial (Jefferson & Oberg, 2018). On July 4th, all colonies had ratified the Jefferson draft that read, “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States,” except for New York, which ratified it on the 7th. The motion was proposed by Richard Henry Lee and seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts (Burnett, 1925), precipitating the congressional efforts to sever ties with the Crown and ushering in the drafting of the final document that would form the basis of the Declaration of Independence. By July 13th, all the colonies had unanimously endorsed the document declaring the Thirteen United States of America (Huber, 2022). In 1778, the American Treaty with France signaled a foreign power’s official recognition of the new nation, with the Netherlands recognizing the new state in 1782 (Concordia University, 2020).

The Outcome

The immediate effect of the Declaration was the escalation of hostilities between British and colonial forces. While initially, Britain saw the initial steps towards independence as a rebellion of a few rather than a fully-fledged revolution, the Declaration made it quite evident as the colonies joined together to push for a united front to fight with support largely from France and later from Spain, formalized through the treaty of alliance. Among the colonists, a division persisted between the revolutionaries who had pursued the cause all along, the loyalists to whom the Declaration constituted a betrayal, and the apolitical ones who wished for the war to end without a loss on them. These differences came to the fore as loyalists attempted to rebut the assertions in the document, with the Former Governor of Massachusetts drafting a disputation titled Strictures Upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia, pointing out the deficits of the Declaration (Hutchinson, 1776). In New York, 547 loyalists constituting common folks, drafted the Declaration of Dependence, affirming their support for the Crown and the British Empire. Besides its immediate purpose, the Declaration provided a background on which other members of the society denied their rights and pushed for their concerns. While not new, the drafters of the Declaration had to contend with differing opinions between themselves and among the population as to how to handle these concerns and to provide a framework for the fulfillment of the promise offered therein that “…. that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable rights….” Some states saw immediate benefits of the independence, with all states promulgating new constitutions allowing white men to vote in their states.

In contrast, others, such as New Jersey, allowed even black men the right to vote, a decision rescinded later in 1807. Women were given greater responsibility as the educators of the future leadership; Natives had mixed outcomes depending on the side of the war they were on, with some losing their land while others gained recognition from the new state. As the document enshrined the right to religion, previously oppressed religious groups could practice freely and without the tax levied to support the Church of England, which was the state religion in the Empire.

In the not-so-distant future, the Declaration had a profound influence on independence movements all across the world. It served as the model on which future independence revolutionaries would base their struggles in Argentina (1816), Haiti (1804), Liberia (1847), and even as recently as 1971 in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. The ideas contained within the Declaration also became the rallying cries of Civil Right Movements and social equity movements, particularly concerning the natural rights of humans. The Declaration instituted calls for universal suffrage, the end of slavery and servitude, and women’s rights. The Declaration also formed the basis of the United States Constitution, being cognisant of the abuses of the British Crown and envisioned a mechanism of self-governance that would implement fail-safes to prevent such abuses through the definition of separation of power, the election of legislative representatives ensuring every citizen has a voice in the government and reinforcing the rights of the people through the bill of rights empowering people form abuse by a tyrannical and oppressive government (Capriola, 2022).


Starting as a small protest against repressive laws instituted by the British parliament, the American revolution grew quickly – Incorporating all thirteen states, and width from calling for a review of colonial relationships to a call for full independence. The entire event came to the fore with the creation of the Continental Congress, the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, and the subsequent war against the British Empire. These events highlight the view that American colonialists identified as a separate entity within the British Empire, only worsened by the ill-treatment of the Crown. The founding fathers grasping the need for change initiated the independence movement culminating in the end of the First British Empire and the birth of the New United States of America. The genius of the founding fathers was in orienting the Declaration to the future by acknowledging the natural rights of men, the social contract between a government and the governed, and the pursuit of happiness; it formed the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution and became an inspiration to other independent movements across the world (Capriola, 2022).


Burnett, E. C. (1925). The Name “United States of America.” The American Historical Review31(1), 79.

Capriola, P. (2022, September 8). What Were the Effects of the Declaration of Independence? – Strategies for Parents. Strategies for Parents.

Concordia University. (2020, July 1st). Timeline of the Declaration of Independence. Concordia.Edu.

Huber, P. (2022, June 23rd). 13 American Colonies Timeline: Dawn of the Colonial Era – Strategies for Parents. Strategies for Parents.

Hutchinson, T. (1776). Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia in a Letter to a Noble Lord, Andc.

Jefferson, T., & Oberg, B. B. (2018). The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (B. B. Oberg (ed.); Vol. 39). Princeton University Press.

Shea, J. M. (2014). The Declaration of Independence (T. Shea (ed.)). Gareth Stevens Publishing. response to Declaration of independence&f=false

Yazawa, M., Fernlund, K. J., Henretta, J. A., & Henretta, J. A. (2011). Documents for America’s history. Bedford/St. Martin’s.


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