Declaration Project

Precursors to the 1776 Declaration of Independence

Scores of state and local declarations of independence were written between April and July 1776 before Declaration of Independence. By and large, it still goes unappreciated how much they informed the July 4, 1776 document, which derived may of its claims from these various and sundry declarations. It also goes to show that our Declaration of Independence was not written in a vacuum, but was in many ways almost a logical next step that emerged from all of the cries for greater freedom from states and localities.

The more one reads the many local declarations that preceded the July 4, 1776 declaration, the more apparent it becomes, as Jefferson said late in life in a letter to Henry Lee, that the Declaration of Independence truly was not in any way a statement of “new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of;” rather, it was, “an expression of the American mind,” in many ways a distillation of the declarations that preceded it.

We currently have the following declarations archived which are precursors to the 1776 Declaration of Independence: