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Origins of American Government
Guide: Declaration of Independence

These resources highlight the events that lead the colonies to declare independence from Great Britain. Use these resources to help students understand why the colonies decided to declare independence as well as how the issue of slavery was dealt with during the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Use the Export to My Lists button above to turn this into a research list for your students.

Theme Key Understandings

  • Societies need government to promote harmony, reduce conflict, and increase economic productivity
  • Governments come in many forms, including rule by one, rule by a few, and rule by many
  • Philosophical thought often influences a society's form of government
  • New political systems are shaped by emulating and opposing older systems of government
  • Founding documents are a result of compromise and the direct experiences of those drafting them
  • Democratic governments derive their power from the consent of the governed
  • Protection of individual rights and liberties is central to American democracy
  • Democratic governments strike a balance between majority rule and minority rights

Key Questions

  • What were the primary motivations of the colonists when they declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776? How is the Declaration of Independence a reflection of the their motivations?
  • The first draft of the Declaration of Independence included language denouncing slavery, but Southern delegates at the Second Continental Congress insisted that the clause be removed and slavery continued in the United States for nearly a century. Do you think keeping the anti-slavery clause in the Declaration would have helped end slavery sooner? Why or why not?


  1. Overview: Declaration of Independence
  2. Visuals: Declaration of Independence (Visual)
  3. Outline: Outline
  4. Transcript: Transcript
  5. Lesson: Introduction
  6. Lesson: 1-Motivations for Independence
  7. Lesson: 2-An Enlightenment Document
  8. Lesson: 3-Accusations against the King
  9. Lesson: Closing
  10. Glossary Terms: no taxation without representation
  11. Glossary Terms: salutary neglect
  12. Photos & Illustrations: Declaration of Independence presented to Congress
  13. Reference Articles: Enlightenment
  14. Reference Articles: Virginia Constitutional Convention
  15. Reference Articles: American Revolution
  16. Reference Articles: Slavery
  17. Political Cartoons, Posters & Document Images: Declaration of Independence (1776)
  18. Political, Government & Court Documents: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms (1775)
  19. Political, Government & Court Documents: Jefferson, Thomas: Declaration of Independence anti-slavery clause (1776)
  20. Political, Government & Court Documents: Paine, Thomas: Common Sense (1776)
  21. Political, Government & Court Documents: Declaration of Independence (1776)

MLA Citation

"Declaration of Independence." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2020, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2156113?cid=256. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

Entry ID: 2156113

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