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The Declaration of Independence

Lesson Plan

The Stage Is Set


When the Revolution began, colonists were tired of living under British rule for over a hundred years and thought their own rules and regulations were better. This is why their representatives gathered in Philadelphia in June and July of 1776 to decide what to do about it. Thus, the Declaration of Independence was born. But the ideas reflected in the Declaration did not develop overnight. Many events and laws that came down from British rulers impacted the lives of people in the twelve colonies. Yet, over a period of 125 years, from the first settlement in Jamestown to the founding of the last colony, Georgia, colonists set up their own rules and regulations to live by. There were no councils watching over them from England and the colonial governors put in place by the British government had limited power. So, control of the colonies was really in America. With the start of the French and Indian War, however, the British began to exert more control over the colonists’ lives and everything changed.

The Start of the French and Indian War


The start of the French and Indian War

The French and Indian War was actually part of a larger war over who would control government and trade with the new territories that some European countries had claimed. Many of the major European powers of the day --

Britain, France, Spain, Holland and Austria — were in a fight for dominance. In the end, Britain was one of the victors, and they got almost total control over North America east of the Mississippi River and Canada.

But the British had gone into a lot of debt to pay for that war. Since many of the battles they fought were in North America, it seemed logical to them to make the American colonists help pay down their debt. As a result, the British required the colonists to begin paying a series of new taxes that made a big impact on their daily lives.

Until this time, Americans had built their lives and careers with their own hands and with their own money. Now, the British wanted to have much more control over the colonists’ lives than they had over the last hundred years. They felt their rights as Englishmen where being trampled on. The colonists fought to have these taxes — including the Townshend Acts, Stamp Act and Tea Act — removed. Some colonists also rebelled against these laws by refusing to pay or smuggling goods to avoid the tax. The American colonists refused to give up what they felt was theirs and wanted to keep their independent spirit alive. At the same time, though, the British refused to give in. When the British Army arrived in Boston to stop the colonists’ rebellious actions, they used force and arrested those leading the rebellion. At that point, it became clear that things had gone too far.

Click through the sub-topics to see how the colonists’ complaints about the British crown grew. You will also discover how many of their gripes were addressed in the Declaration of Independence.


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©1995- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, PA founded in 1942.
Publishing electronically as ushistory.org.; online since July 4, 1995.

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