The Declaration of Independence is the document that said that the thirteen colonies were free and independent of England.
At first when the thirteen colonies were under England's government there were no great problems. Colonists had limited representation although England appointed the governors and other officials in the colonies.
However, due to the French and Indian War, England went heavily into debt. Much of that war was fought in the colonies with England sending troops to protect the colonists. Therefore the British felt that the colonists should bear a portion of the costs. The British Parliament began tightening tax laws and passing new ones that the colonists disliked.
Finally in 1774, delegates from the colonies met in Philadelphia. This was called the First Continental Congress. The delegates sent a statement to the King telling the colonists views on the taxes and asked that the colonists be allowed to make their own laws. Another continental congress was planned.
Meanwhile, colonial minutemen and British troops fought over supplies of arms the colonists had stored at Concord, Massachusetts. This was the first blood shed in the Revolutionary War.
It soon became clear that independence from England would be necessary.
In June 1776, the congress picked Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston to write the declaration of independence. Since Jefferson was a good writer, he was picked to actually write the document. After it was written, about one-fourth of the first draft was cut out, including a section outlawing slavery. Finally on July fourth the congress passed the Declaration of Independence, although it was not signed by all the delegates for a month. It was then sent to King George III of England.
The Declaration of Independence is now housed at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Jefferson's original draft is housed at the Library of Congress.
Visit The Declaration of Independence, a VirtEd site where one can read, learn and do activities about the Declaration of Independence.