Celebrate Freedom Week!

Savannah Young and Jamie Seawright

Declaration of Independence

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.

The Constitution

Basically, the Constitution is the highest law in the United States. All other laws come from the Constitution in some way. The Constitution also provides the framework for the government of the United States. It creates things like the Presidency, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. Each state has its own constitution that is the highest law for the state — but even then, the United States Constitution is higher.Over time, some things have been added to the Constitution. Called "amendments," these add-ons list some of the rights of the people. By listing these rights, they are made special, and it is illegal for the government to violate those rights. As of 2006, there are 27 amendments to the Constitution. Not all of them involve rights, but many do. The first ten amendments, in particular, have the special name of the Bill of Rights.

American Revolution

The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies on the North American continent.The war was the culmination of the political American Revolution, whereby the colonists overthrew British rule. In 1775, Revolutionaries seized control of each of the thirteen colonial governments, set up the Second Continental Congress, and formed a Continental Army. The following year, they formally declared their independence as a new nation, the United States of America. From 1778 onward, other European powers would fight on the American side in the war. Meanwhile, Native Americans and African Americans served on both sides.This combination of factors led ultimately to the downfall of British rule in America and the rise of the revolutionaries' own independent nation, the United States of America.

Emancipation Proclamation

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.