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The fundamental document establishing the United States as a nation, adopted on July 4, 1776. The declaration was ordered and approved by the Continental Congress and written largely by Thomas Jefferson. It declared the thirteen colonies represented in the Continental Congress independent from Britain, offered reasons for the separation, and laid out the principles for which the Revolutionary War was fought. The signers included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Jefferson. The declaration begins (capitalization and punctuation are modernized): “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new govenment, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Note: The day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence is now commemorated as the Fourth of July, or Independence Day.