Columbia Declared Independent - History

Columbia Declared Independent - History

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On November 11, 1811 the province of Cartagena in present day Columbia declared its independence.
  • OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Colombia
  • CAPITAL: Bogotá
  • POPULATION: 48,168,996
  • MONEY: Peso
  • AREA: 439,619 square miles (1,138,910 square kilometers)
  • MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Andes, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
  • MAJOR RIVERS: Magdalena, Cauca, Atrato, Sinú


Colombia is nicknamed the "gateway to South America" because it sits in the northwestern part of the continent where South America connects with Central and North America. It is the fifth largest country in Latin America and home to the world's second largest population of Spanish-speaking people.

Colombia is a land of extremes. Through its center run the towering, snow-covered volcanoes and mountains of the Andes. Tropical beaches line the north and west. And there are deserts in the north and vast grasslands, called Los Llanos, in the east.

Dense forests fill Colombia's Amazon Basin, which takes up nearly the country's entire southern half. In northwest Colombia, a warm, wet, jungle-filled area called the Chocó reaches across the Panama border.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


Colombia's people are as varied as its landscape. Most citizens are descended from three ethnic groups: Indians, African people brought to Colombia to work as slaves, and European settlers. This rich cultural mix makes the country's foods, music, dance, and art diverse and unique.


With its vast rain forests, sprawling savannas, huge mountains, and 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) of coastline on two oceans, Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth. Even though it takes up less than one percent of the world's land area, about 10 percent of all animal species live in Colombia.

Much of Colombia's forest habitats have been undisturbed for many millions of years. This has given wildlife a chance to evolve into many different species. Animals from jaguars to caimans to poison dart frogs all call Colombia's jungles home. The mountains provide habitat for huge Andean condors and rare spectacled bears, South America's only bear species.

Thousands of years ago, Colombia was nearly completely covered in jungle. But people have cleared most of the trees to create farmland, and now only a handful of areas have their original forests. The government has set up several national parks to protect habitats, but damage to the environment continues.


Colombia has a long history of democracy. Like the United States, the country is run by a president, who is elected every four years. Laws are made by a House of Representatives and a Senate.

Colombia's biggest trading partner is the United States, which buys 40 percent of the country's exports. Colombia sends a variety of items overseas, including coffee, bananas, oil, coal, gold, platinum, and emeralds.

One of Colombia's worst exports, though, is illegal drugs. With help from the United States, the Colombian government is carrying out Plan Colombia, a costly and wide-ranging effort to rid the country of the gangs, called cartels, that produce illegal drugs for sale around the world.


Archaeologists think the first people to arrive in Colombia came about 20,000 years ago. Some 8,000 years after that, settlers in the Magdalena Valley in the western part of the country grew into a civilization called the Chibcha. From the Chibcha arose the Muisca, an advanced culture that became the dominant power in Colombia by A.D. 700.

Spanish explorers arrived in Colombia in 1500 but didn't establish a settlement until 1525. These settlers were obsessed with finding gold and other valuables, and by 1538 they had conquered the Muisca and stolen all their gold and jewels. Colombia remained under Spanish rule for nearly 250 years.

By the late 1700s, people in Colombia had grown tired of Spanish rule. In 1811, the city of Cartagena declared independence and Bogotá soon followed. Spanish soldiers tried to reclaim control in 1815, but Colombian forces led by the famed Venezuelan general Simón Bolívar defeated the Spanish in 1819.

After independence, Colombia became part of a large country called New Granada. This country fell apart by 1835, and Colombia became a separate nation. Fights soon broke out between political groups over who would lead the country. Since then, Colombia has had several civil wars and relatively few times of peace.

Guerrilla war

1964 - Leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) and Maoist People's Liberation Army (EPL) founded.

1966 - Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc, the current largest guerrilla grouping) set up.

1970 - National People's Alliance formed as a left-wing counterweight to the National Front.

1971 - Left-wing M-19 guerrilla group emerges.

1978 - President Julio Turbay (Liberal) begins intensive fight against drug traffickers.

1982 - President Belisario Betancur (Conservative) grants guerrillas amnesty and frees political prisoners.

Personal Life

Bolívar was a natural leader and a man of great energy. He was very competitive, often challenging his officers to contests of swimming or horsemanship (and usually winning). He could stay up all night playing cards or drinking and singing with his men, who were fanatically loyal to him.

Bolivar married once early in life, but his wife died shortly thereafter. From that point forward, he was a notorious womanizer who had dozens, if not hundreds, of lovers over the years. He cared greatly for appearances and loved nothing more than making grand entrances into cities he had liberated and could spend hours grooming himself in fact, some claim he could use a whole bottle of cologne in one day.

Independence from Spanish rule in South America

Sally James Farnham, Equestrian Portrait of Simón Bolivar, dedicated 1921, bronze, 13 feet 6 inches tall (located at Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas, New York City) photo: David Shankbone, CC BY 2.5

The roots of Independence

The extensive Spanish colonies in North, Central and South America (which included half of South America, present-day Mexico, Florida, islands in the Caribbean and the southwestern United States) declared independence from Spanish rule in the early nineteenth century and by the turn of the twentieth century, the hundreds of years of the Spanish colonial era had come to a close. How did this happen? The Enlightenment ideals of democracy—equality under the law, separation of church and state, individual liberty—encouraged colonial independence movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Enlightenment began in eighteenth-century Europe as a philosophical movement that took science, reason, and inquiry as its guiding principles in order to challenge traditions and reform society. The results of these changes in thought are reflected in both the American and French revolutions—where a monarchical form of government (where the King ruled by divine right) was replaced with a Republic empowered by the people.

I n Spain, the occupation by Napoleon during the Peninsular War (1808-1814) also inspired liberators to fight against foreign invaders. The examples of rebellion in the British Colonies, France, and Spain empowered Latin American revolutionaries who speculated on whether independence was a realistic and viable alternative to colonial rule. The term “Latin America” originated in the nineteenth century, when Argentinean jurist Carlos Calvo and French engineer Michel Chevalier, in reference to the Napoleonic invasion of Mexico in 1862, used the term “Latin,” referring to those whose national language—like Spanish—was derived from Latin, to denote difference from the “Anglo-Saxon” English-speaking people of North America.

Pedro José Figueroa, Simón Bolívar: Liberator of Colombia, c. 1820, oil on canvas, 95 x 64 cm (Museo Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá)

It was largely the creoles who instigated the fight for liberation . Creoles remained connected to Europe through their ancestry and since t hey were often educated abroad, these ideas of self-determination held great appeal for them. Peninsulares on the other hand were more directly tied to Spain in ancestry and allegiance. In 1793 , the Colombian creole Antonio Nariño, who would later serve as military general in Colombia’s struggle for independence, printed a translation of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen , demonstrating the bilingual and bicultural aspect of Latin American independence. Translations of speeches made by the founding fathers of the United States, including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, also circulated in Latin America.

Not all creoles however, believed in independence and democracy—in fact, there existed an opposition of creole royalists who supported the Spanish Crown and allied themselves with the Peninsulares. C reole patriots (as opposed to the royalists) were attracted to the idea of independence and thought of themselves as Latin Americans, not as Spaniards. Despite having been born and raised in a Spanish viceroyalty to Spanish parents, they were culturally connected to Latin America. Situated at the interface of both identities, creole patriots considered themselves descendants of, but different from, the Spanish.

Simón Bolívar

In 1819, Simón Bolívar (above) articulated a concept of a Latin American identity that was racially unique, stating that “our people are nothing like Europeans or North Americans indeed, we are more a mixture of Africa and America than we are children of Europe….It is impossible to say with any certainty to which human race we belong.” 1 With this newfound sense of Latin American identity, creole revolutionaries approached independence from the standpoint of the Enlightenment, but with an added cultural dimension informed by their local experiences.

The first two, and most notable, countries in the Americas to gain independence were the United States (1776), led by General George Washington , and Haiti (1804), led by Toussaint L’Ouverture (left) . Other Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico, also embarked on their struggles for independence in the early nineteenth century—Chile and Mexico, for example, began in 1810, though their autonomy was not secured until later: Chile in 1818 and Mexico in 1821. Since territories were freed in sections with the ultimate goal of liberating an entire viceroyalty, the fight for independence came slowly and in stages.

In the northern part of South America, Simón Bolívar initiated his fight for independence by liberating the countries that formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada . On August 30, 1821, Gran Colombia, a conglomerate of recently freed countries formerly part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (including modern-day Colombia and Venezuela), was established at the Congress of Cúcuta (see map below). At this same congress, Bolívar was elected president.

Following the liberation of Ecuador in 1822, and of Panama in 1821, Gran Colombia grew with the inclusion of both these countries. In his attempts to liberate as much of Latin America as possible, Bolívar traveled further south and freed Bolivia in 1825—a country whose name pays homage to its liberator.

Map of Gran Colombia (1824)

Heroes, Martyrs, and Liberators

Despite economic volatility and political upheaval, there was a desire among nationals for artists to document Latin America’s autonomy and in the process create a new Latin American iconography. Portraits of liberators, allegorical depictions of independence, and representations of important battles comprised the artistic production of the early nineteenth century. Tied to the desire to establish a national identity, portraiture and history painting were in high demand—the former documented the likenesses of revolutionary figures, while the latter recorded the major battles and landmark events of independence. While these genres existed before independence, their popularity significantly increased in the early nineteenth century.

With the exception of Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil, there existed no government-sponsored art school or established artistic communities in early post-independence Latin America. As a result, artists were either trained within small art studios, or by working artists, or in many cases were not formally trained at all— which helps to explain the diversity of styles in early nineteenth century painting. Often neglected or even wrongfully categorized, the early nineteenth century is a time of transformation when both artists and viewers were adapting to a changing society, articulating a sense of national identity, and in the process, creating a new artistic tradition.


El Libertador Simón Bolívar was born in 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela to an aristocratic family. He was tutored by Simón Rodríguez, who introduced Bolívar to the work of Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau—specifically his ideas on the origins of inequality. Bolívar’s privileged background also permitted him to travel abroad, and in 1804 he met the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the Prussian naturalist, and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt who had travelled extensively in Latin America and ignited Bolívar’s patriotism.

Bolívar posed for Colombian painter Pedro José Figueroa, a descendant of a colonial family of portraitists and miniature artists. In Simón Bolívar: The Liberator of Colombia (above), Figueroa emphasizes Bolívar’s military triumph through the three medals that decorate his uniform: the Order of the Liberators of Venezuela, the Cross of Boyacá and the Liberators of Cundinamarca. In an other portrait by Figueroa (below), The Liberator is depicted in military uniform with large gold epaulettes, a sword dangling from the waist, and a prominent belt with his initials “S.B.” imprinted on the buckle.

Pedro José Figueroa, Bolívar and the Allegory of America, 1819, oil on canvas, Museo Quinta de Bolivar, Bogotá (Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia)

In both portraits by Figueroa, Bolívar appears almost entirely frontal, his posture stiff and anatomy awkward—a colonial aesthetic that the artist carries over into the nineteenth century. Privileging textures, color, and clothing, these painting s stress the historical or social importance of the sitter. The use of text within a portrait—another hallmark of colonial painting—appears in the two Figueroa portraits of Bolívar, as well as in Portrait of Bolívar in Bogotá by José Gil de Castro (below) . In each of these portraits, the use of text helps to reinforce Bolívar’s heroism, stating yet again, and this time in written form, that he is indeed El Libertador. While military dress seems to be a consistent feature in the portraiture of Bolívar, his facial features and skin tone change according to artist. Despite the fact that Bolívar was a creole, Figueroa calls attention to his uniquely Latin American character by depicting him with darker skin—a reference to the racial mixing that characterized Latin America after colonization.

Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812, oil on canvas, 203.9 x 125.1 cm (National Gallery of Art)

In contrast to Figueroa, Gil de Castro presents Bolívar in a full-length portrait, providing a view of both The Liberator and his surroundings. The format and composition of the portrait, as well as the pose, recall The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries by the French artist Jacques-Louis David (left). The interior view of both portraits provide further information about the personalities of these generals. In the case of Napoleon, for example, David includes a copy of Plutarch’s Lives on the floor, in an attempt to position Napoleon within an ancient lineage. In Gil de Castro’s portrait of Bolívar, the globe placed prominently in the background announces Bolívar’s worldliness and regional ambitions, as reflected in his liberation of multiple Latin American countries.

The military attire and heroic pose of Bolívar, shown with one hand tucked inside his jacket and his body positioned at an angle, recall the portrait of Napoleon. Though both portraits represent interiors—far from any battle—Bolívar and Napoleon proudly wear their military uniforms. The military heroism of Bolívar is further accentuated by the red banner of text at the top, which reads “Peru recalls the heroic deeds revered to its Liberator.” Painted in 1830, the year of Bolívar’s death, Gil de Castro depicts an aging yet noble Bolívar, quite different from the young liberator seen in Figueroa’s earlier portrait (top of page). The strong similarities between Portrait of Bolívar in Bogotá and The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries , as well as with other full-length portraits of military generals, suggest that even after independence Latin American artists continued to look to Europe for artistic models.

History Painting

While portraiture could capture the personality and physical features of a hero, its potential to convey narrative was limited. History painting solved this problem, allowing artists to record the pivotal battles or moments in the wars of independence. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, history painting was often imbued with moral lessons about heroism and patriotism. As a result, in European art it was considered the most elevated genre of painting—above still life, landscape, and portraiture.

José María Espinosa, Battle of Palo River, c. 1850, oil on canvas, 81 x 121 cm (Museo Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá)

Historical subjects were also painted by some of the same artists who created portraits of the heroes of Latin American independence. This was the case with the Colombian creole painter José María Espinosa, a largely self-taught artist who specialized in miniature portraits, but who had also served in General Nariño’s Campaign of the South . Painted from memory but based on first-hand experience, Espinosa memorialized the battle of Palo River. Probably due to his lack of experience with this new genre, Espinosa organized his composition as if it were a landscape. Focusing on the topography and vegetation of Colombia rather than on particular military heroes and pivotal moments, Espinosa’s Battle of Palo River (above) is better understood as a landscape view rather than a representation of the particulars of an historical event. His landscapist approach is also reflected in his handling of the composition, in which he delineates foreground, middle ground, and background, creating an illusionistic sense of deep space. In the foreground, the ground closest to the viewer, two military soldiers energetically ride on horseback, while in the middle ground the battle intensifies near the river, all culminating in a peaceful sunset. The cropped tree positioned at right frames the event, which unfolds in various stages culminating in the background.

The end of Gran Colombia

Despite the ambition of Gran Colombia, it remained politically complex, and worsened when Bolívar proclaimed himself dictator in 1828, a move he justified by pointing to insurrections. He became increasingly unpopular and that same year survived an assassination attempt. After 1828, Bolívar retreated to Santa Marta, Colombia where he died in 1830 while awaiting voluntary exile in Europe. Despite his attempts to create unity, and with the wars of independence now over, Latin American countries no longer saw a reason for partnership. Gran Colombia dissolved in 1830, and in the ensuing decades the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, as we know them today, were established.

1 As quoted in Marie Arana, Bolivar: American Liberator (Simon and Schuster, 2013), p. 223.

5. Italy (50,474,000)

Italy has a very long history of Christianity, with the religion first coming to the nation in the 1st century. The church has always been highly influential in Italy and the capital city, Rome, is a popular place for pilgrimage. Furthermore, the Vatican is located within Italy, even though it does function as a separate entity. The 50,474,000 million Italian Catholics have a long history backing their religious values as well as the leadership of the pope.

12 Days of South American Independence

July is a month of patriotism in North and South America.

On July 1 the most northern among us celebrated Canada Day, commemorating the country's shift to a self-governed entity. Just a few days later, on the 4 th of July, the United States overflows with picnics and firework displays in celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a 1776 act that signaled separation from British colonial rule.

South America isn&rsquot all that different. Many of the continent's 12 independent countries gained their freedom from European rulers in the months of July, August, or September, typically between the years of 1810-1825. Like Canada and the United States, the areas in South America that declared independence looked different than they do today. Much of the continent was divided into viceroyalties that do not align with modern day boarders.

If you&rsquore traveling to South America this summer, keep an eye on the date. Many businesses will be closed during national holidays, but you&rsquoll be able to enjoy parades, festivals, and other national-themed celebrations.

Fast Facts about Independence in South America

  • South American nations won their independence primarily from Spain, but also from Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
  • The first country to declare independence was Colombia in 1810. The last was Suriname in 1975.
  • French Guiana is still an official part of France.
  • Gran Colombia was the first union of independent nations in South America. It included most of northern South America and existed from 1819 until 1831.
  • Simon Bolivar, a military and political leader from Venezuela, played a major role in the independence movement in at least 5 South American nations. The country Bolivia is named after him.
  • Several countries celebrate other milestones. Guyana, for example, celebrates Republic Day (also called Mashramani) on February 23 to mark the day Guyana became a republic in 1970.

Independence Days in South America by Date

Paraguay - 14 May 1811 (from Spain)
Guyana - 26 May 1966 (from the United Kingdom, originally settled by Netherlands)

Venezuela - 5 July 1811 (from Spain)
Argentina - 9 July 1816 (from Spain)
Colombia - 20 July 1810 (from Spain)
Peru - 28 July 1821 (from Spain)

Bolivia - 6 August 1825 (from Spain)
Ecuador &ndash 10 August 1822 (from Spain)
Uruguay - 25 August 1825 (from Spain, then Brazil)

Brazil - 7 September 1822 (from Portugal)
Chile - 18 September 1810 (from Spain)

Suriname - 25 November 1975 (from the Netherlands)

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A Selection of Independence Days

January to March

A total of 31 countries around the world celebrate their independence days between January 1 and March 31. Of these countries 7 commemorate the day on January 1 including Haiti, Sudan, Cuba, Cameroon, Samoa, Brunei, and the Czech Republic. Myanmar and Ukraine celebrate their independence days on January 4 and 22 respectively. 12 countries including Sri Lanka, Chile, Serbia, Lithuania, Gambia, and the Dominican Republic attained their independence in February.

April to June

Senegal was the first country to attain independence in April (April 4), followed by Georgia on April 9. Syria, Zimbabwe, and Irelands commemorate their independence days on April 17, 18, and 24 respectively. Both Togo and Sierra Leon share Independence Day (April 27) although they attained independence in 1960 and 1961 respectively. 12 countries across the globe observe their independence days in May, among them Latvia (May 4), Romania (9), Paraguay (15), and Georgia and Guyana (May 26). Interestingly, Israel on or between April 15 and May 15 (a day known as Iyar 5) depending on the Hebrew calendar. Countries such as Sweden, Norway, Russia, Iceland, the DRC, and 6 others attained their independence in June.

July to September

Five countries including Canada, Rwanda, Somali, Hong Kong, and Burundi have July 1 as their Independence Day. The US commemorates its Independence Day on July 4. Algerian independence is celebrated on July 5. South Sudan, the newest sovereign state, attained independence on July 9, 2011. A record 26 countries celebrate their independence days in the month of August, among them Jamaica (6), Ecuador (10), Pakistan (14), South and North Korea (15), India (15), the Congo Republic (15), Gabon (17), and Malaysia (31) among others. 21 independence days are celebrated in September of every year, including in Uzbekistan (September 1), Brazil (7), Costa Rica (15), Mexico (16), Chile (18), Mali (22), and Botswana (30).

October to December

Although Cyprus attained independence from the UK on August 16, 1960, Independence Day is celebrated on October 1. Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria, also celebrates its Independence Day on October 1. Other countries that commemorate their independence in October include Uganda (9), Fiji (10), Zambia (24), and the Czech Republic (28). Angola, Morocco, Albania, Lebanon, Panama, and Yemen celebrate their independence days on various dates in November while Portugal, Finland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Qatar among other countries became independent in December.

A Brief History of San Basilio de Palenque, Cartagena

The colourfully dressed Afro-Colombian women selling fruit in the main squares are one of Cartagena‘s most memorable sights. Thousands of tourists pose with them for souvenir photos, and the women adorn the covers of many magazines and guidebooks. But few people know their history and that of the village where they come from, San Basilio de Palenque: the first free slave town in the Americas.

San Basilio de Palenque is a small village nestled in the foothills of the Montes de Maria, a small mountain range to the south of Cartagena. It doesn’t appear in many guidebooks, and few tourists take the time to visit. However, this small settlement of some 4,000 people is one of the most important historical villages in the Americas and a UNESCO-declared ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ since 2005.

Palenque was founded sometime in the 16th century—the exact date remains unknown—by Benkos Biohó, a former African king from either the Democratic Republic of Congo or Angola, who was sold into slavery and escaped the slave port of Cartagena in 1599. He fled his captors into the swamps to the south of Cartagena and went on to form an army of escaped slaves who conquered the area around the Montes de Maria.

Biohó also created an intelligence network, which helped to facilitate more escapes. Eventually, in 1605, the governor of Cartagena offered Biohó a peace treaty. This treaty was finalised with inhabitants of Palenque in 1612 before being violated by the Spanish in 1619, when they captured Biohó in Cartagena. He was executed by hanging in 1621 by Governor García Girón on the basis that Biohó’s image was likely to inspire dangerous subversion among the slave population. Today, he is immortalised in an evocative statue in the main square of Palenque with his right arm reaching towards Africa, broken chains hanging from his wrists.

The village of Palenque—which means “walled city”—grew slowly in the early days, when it was a small group of escaped slaves living secretively in the mountains. However, in 1691 the Spanish Crown issued a Royal Decree officially freeing the Africans in San Basilio de Palenque from slavery. This made them the first free Africans in the Americas and it made Palenque the first free settlement.

These former slaves maintained many of their African oral and musical traditions, including the only Spanish-Bantú spoken on earth, known as Palenquero. Influenced by the Kikongo language of Angola and Congo, it is only spoken today by roughly half of Palenque’s residents but is recognised as the only Spanish-based Creole language that exists in the world. Palenque’s African-influenced funeral traditions, known as the lumbalu, have also been maintained and studied extensively by historians and anthropologists.

Palenque is also the birthplace of some of Colombia’s finest boxers, musicians, and actors. The iconic Colombian boxer Antonio ‘Kid Pambelé’ Cervantes—a two-time world Jr. Welterweight champion—was born in the village, as was the actor Evaristo Márquez, who appeared alongside Marlon Brando in the movie Burn! in 1969. The village is also considered the birthplace of a genre of music called champeta, which has evolved to become incredibly popular throughout Colombia and Latin America. Famous practitioners of the genre such as Charles King, Louis Towers, and Rafael Cassiani Cassiani were all born in Palenque, as were the members of the popular new Colombian rap group, Kombilesa Mi.

This musical heritage is celebrated annually in Palenque’s most famous festival: the Festival de Tambores y Expresiones Culturales, or Festival of Drums and Cultural Expression. Held every year in October, this three-day festival celebrates the unique musical gifts that Palenque has bestowed upon the world. Local and international musicians gather in the town to eat, drink, and play live music on the main square. It is one of Colombia’s most important cultural heritage festivals.

The iconic palenqueras of Cartagena, who appear in so many tourist photos, come from San Basilio Palenque. Some still live in the village, just 50 miles from the city, and many have migrated to Cartagena. They sell traditional coconut sweets, developed over hundreds of years within the community, and pose for pictures in traditional dress. However, most of the tourists smiling in those photos never know the fascinating history of San Basilio de Palenque and its inhabitants, past and present.

Declaration of Independence Summary

This post provides a Declaration of Independence summary, along with the historical content of the Declaration, the reception, and its long-term impact on domestic and global politics.

Congress Moves Toward Independence

    1. May 1776: Congress gave a general sanction for the colonies to form new governments and declared the crown’s control over the colonies to be “totally suppressed.” One by one, the colonies did this.
    2. Some declared themselves independent states. They sent new delegates to Congress and urged Congress to declare the colonies independent.
    3. In June, Richard Henry Lee of VA offered a resolution that would declare independence. It passed.
    4. Congress formed committees to devise a plan for a confederation of the states, to seek out foreign alliances, and to write a formal declaration of independence.
    5. The latter committee consisted of Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was selected to write the declaration, and once he was done, the other members suggested corrections.
    6. On July 2, Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain.
    7. John Adams: “The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

    The Declaration: Excerpt 1 and Commentary

      1. “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.”
      2. Jefferson produced a memorable and compelling statement of both American independence and the ideas underlying it.
      3. Jefferson cast his words as an Enlightenment and republican statement.
      4. Here Jefferson declared that Independence occurs as a human event, in human history, not divine wonders or miracles.
      5. Governments are created by people, not sent from God. As such, they can be changed whenever people feel it is necessary. These ideas come (mostly) from John Locke.
      6. Within this course of human events, certain events become necessary. Some things are inevitable. What events have made independence necessary?
      7. To answer this question, Jefferson appealed to natural rights. He called them “self-evident” or obvious. There is a universal foundation for human rights.

      The Declaration: Excerpt 2 and Commentary

        1. “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.”
        2. No one can take these rights away. The first task of government is to make these rights secure .

        The Declaration: Excerpt 3 and Commentary

          1. “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
          2. Most of the document focuses on the king’s abuses of power. “He has.” Examples include:
            1. “He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.”
            2. “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.”
            3. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
            4. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of the civilized nation.”
            5. “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

            The Declaration: Conclusion

            “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”


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