Celebrate Freedom Week
By Patrick Hoffman & Meredith Pletcher
Declaration of Independence Overview
The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress, states the reasons the British colonies of North America sought independence in July of 1776.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789. The first ten constitutional amendments ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1791 are known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution has been amended seventeen additional times (for a total of 27 amendments) and its principles are applied in courts of law by judicial review.
The war was the result of the political American Revolution. Colonists galvanized around the position that the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by Parliament of Great Britain, was unconstitutional. The British Parliament insisted it had the right to tax colonists. The colonists claimed that, as they were British subjects, taxation without representation was illegal. The American colonists formed a unifying Continental Congress and a shadow government in each colony, though at first remaining loyal to the king. The American boycott of taxed British tea led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when shiploads of tea were destroyed. London responded by ending self-government in Massachusetts and putting it under the control of the British army with General Thomas Gage as governor. In April 1775 Gage learned that weapons were being gathered in Concord, and he sent British troops to seize and destroy them. Local militia confronted the troops and exchanged fire (see Battles of Lexington and Concord). After repeated pleas to the British monarchy for intervention with Parliament, any chance of a compromise ended when the Congress were declared traitors by royal decree, and they responded by declaring the independence of a new sovereign nation, the United States of America, on July 4, 1776.
The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It was not a law passed by Congress. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states then in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at that time. The Proclamation immediately freed 50,000 slaves, with nearly all the rest (of the 3.1 million) freed as Union armies advanced. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens