The Declaration of Independence
Sent to draft a Declaration of Independence, the men on the committee (in particular, John Adams) agreed that Thomas Jefferson from Virginia should be its primary author. The purpose of the Declaration was to explain why independence was needed from Great Britain in addition to listing the grievances (complaints) the colonies had with its mother country. Essentially, it was a "break-up" letter with England.
Many corrections and edits (see images) to the Declaration were made until the committee was ready to present it to the Continental Congress. On July 2, 1776, through much debate at the Second Continental Congress, independence was accepted and on July 4, 1776 (the day Americans recognize as our Independence Day), the final draft of the Declaration was accepted.
Would you have voted to declare independence? It is easy for us, over 200 years later, to say "Of course!" because we know how it turns out - we win! But the brave men who signed the Declaration were essentially signing their names to a treasonous document. If the war had turned out differently, they would be hung for treason. Ponder that, next July 4th!
History Channel's explanation of the Declaration of Independence
"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."
Transcript of the Declaration of Independence, courtesy of the National Archives.