The Declaration of Independence
After the Battle of Bunker Hill, there had been too much bloodshed to permit peace or compromise. The Second Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston draft a formal protest against Britain, in line with Lee's resolution, declaring the colonies free of British rule. Not satisfied with the wording of this declaration, on July 6, Dickinson petitioned Congress for one more shot at the document. Thus, Congress approved a final “Olive Branch Petition” in July 1775. Once again, the king rejected it. In December, Parliament passed the Prohibitory Act, outlawing trade with the rebellious colonies and establishing a naval blockade. Britain went one step further, sending additional troops and German mercenaries better known as the Hessians — acts undoubtedly meant to bring the patriots to their knees begging forgiveness. They didn't. Even the more moderate factions began contemplating all-out war against the mother country.
The Magna Carta was a thirteenth-century English legal document on which the United States based much of its original laws. England's powerful barons forced King John to grant a charter limiting his powers. The Magna Carta helped establish the principle that no one — not even a king — is above the law.
Committee members selected Thomas Jefferson, who was, among other things, an attorney who had a reputation for being a stellar writer, to finish the drafts. The resulting document was the Declaration of Independence, which not only outlined the grievances against Britain and declared the colonies free and independent, but also incorporated John Locke's doctrine of unalienable rights, including life and liberty.
After about eighty-four revisions, on July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the declaration by unanimous vote of the delegates of twelve colonies. Only New York abstained because representatives had not been authorized to vote (however, days later, the New York Provincial Congress endorsed the Declaration). John Hancock was the first to sign the document, which was considered an act of treason against King George III of England. It's rumored that he practiced writing his name prior to affixing his famous signature rather boldly to the historic document, spawning the expression about leaving one's “John Hancock.”
With the Declaration of Independence the United States of America was born in Philadelphia's State House (now Independence Hall). This important document, with its sharp yet poetic language, finally convinced the British and the French that the American colonies had had enough and were determined to be an independent republic. No one, least of all King George, could ignore the situation.