Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

What events led to the American Declaration of Independence?

Watch Genevieve White outline the events which led to the American Declaration of Independence.
The American Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 by one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, Thomas Jefferson, who later became President. Why was the Declaration of Independence written? Well in the 18th century, the colonists, that is, the people who had gone to live and settle in the USA were pretty unhappy. There were unhappy because they were being ruled over by British King, George III. Laws were being passed in Britain, which affected their lives. However, the colonists had no representation in England. And they had no one to speak up for them when laws were being passed. As a result, they had to put up with paying taxes that they had not agreed to.
They were also subject to laws which cut them off from doing trade with other parts of the world. So what was written in the Declaration of Independence? Well, part of it is a detailed list of complaints against King George. The American Declaration of Independence also states that all men are created equal. And there are certain rights that governments and kings should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When leaders fail to protect those rights, it is not only the right but also the duty of the people to overthrow those leaders. The American colonists wanted to have their own government based on democratic ideals. Does any of this sound familiar?
The American Declaration of Independence drew much of its inspiration from Magna Carta. For the colonies, Magna Carta was a symbol of freedom and of a fair and democratic government.

Listen to Genevieve talking about the events which led to the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is possibly the most famous line from the American Declaration of Independence. In this part of the Declaration, the colonists state that revolution is justified when a government goes against human rights. The Declaration argues that all people are equal in the eyes of God and that everyone is entitled to live freely.

The Declaration goes on to list specific complaints which the American colonists had against the British government, and concludes by declaring the 13 British colonies on the east coast of North America independent.

  • Do you know of any other countries who have fought to gain independence?
  • What was their reason for doing so?

Please share your knowledge with other learners on the course.

In the next step, you are going to read a modern day version of the American Declaration of Independence.

This article is from the free online

Magna Carta

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now