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Grade: Senior
Subject: Literature

#3503. Declaration of Independence

Literature, level: Senior
Posted Sun Oct 30 08:27:21 PST 2005 by Shelly Leuthold (
Medina High School, Medina, Ohio
Materials Required: Schoolhouse Rocks! Fireworks & a copy of Declaration of Independence
Activity Time: 2 days
Concepts Taught: Parallelism, emotionally charged language,

Declaration of Independence Lesson Plan

1. Write July 4, 1776 on the board – What does that mean to you? What do you know about the Declaration of Independence?
 Important Historical fact
 Stamp Act 1765 – money to support British troops in America buy stamps for newspapers, legal documents, mortgages, liquor licenses, playing cards, and almanacs
i. Magna Carta (1215) – No tax without rep
 Important dates
 July 2, 1776 – Declaration of Independence Resolution was adopted
 July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence approved & signed
 July 8, 1776 – 1st public reading of Declaration of Independence
 August 2, 1776 – Declaration of Independence was officially signed
 On this day in history representatives of the 13 colonies meeting at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress appointed a five person to “prepare a declaration of independence.”
 John Adams of MA
 Roger Sherman of Conn
 Robert Livingston of NY
 Ben Franklin of PA
 Thomas Jefferson of VA
2. Schoolhouse Rocks! Fireworks
3. It is literature as well as political history, or primary source.
4. Major writing at the time: pamphlets, essays, much done to persuade
5. What writing promst would Adams have used to get Jefferson to write Declaration of Independence? What directions would he have given?
6. Define emotionally-charged words: (bothering another student or harassing another student)
7. Define parallelism: When the writer establishes similar patterns of grammatical structure and length. If there are three structures, it is tricolon parallelism
 Effect: repetition is like a series of punches & opponent has not time to recover
8. Second paragraph is one of the most famous & important statements of basic American values:
 self-evident (obvious),
 inherent (innate), and
 inalienable (unable to be taken away)
9. In “Harrison Bergeron,” a famous short story by Kurt Vonnegut (1922-?), Vonnegut imagines a future America in which “everybody was finally equal”: Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger than anybody else.” Explore what we think the framers of the Declaration meant by the statement “all men are created equal.” Why do some people believe that all Americans, in fact, are not yet equal.
10. Questions:
 In the opening paragraph of the Declaration, Jefferson provides a thesis statement or focus. What is it?
 What is the function of the 2nd paragraph? Why is he concerned with stating the assumptions for his criticism of British rule?
 According to Jefferson, what is the purpose of government? What is the source of governmental authority?
 Of what “injuries & usurpations” is the King of Great Britain accused? In Jefferson’s view, has the King committed crimes that entitle his American subjects to sever the legal bonds that connected the two?
 Does Jefferson provide a ranking of the injustices committed by the King? Why not? Is it clear to the reader that certain royal acts are more outrageous than others? That certain actions are more a grounds for a rebellion than others?
 What is the net effect of the list of Jefferson provides? Is this cast in the form of a legal indictment? Why does Jefferson bother to mention the particulars? Doesn’t his audience know well the actions of King George?
 When Jefferson says that “we…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…,” what does he mean?
 In the rights accorded to “free and independent states,” why does Jefferson mention “have full power to levy war, conclude peace, and contract alliances” before he gets to issue of trade? Is this meant to be a warning to King George?
 Describe the tone of this document. How does this style shape the tone?

ALMANAC: How the Declaration of Independence Was Adopted
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, who had issued the first call for a congress of the colonies, introduced in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia a resolution declaring “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.”
The resolution, seconded by John Adams on behalf of the Massachusetts delegation, came up again on June 10 when a committee of 5, headed by Thomas Jefferson, was appointed to express the purpose of the resolution in a declaration of independence. The others on the committee were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
Drafting the Declaration was assigned to Jefferson, who worked on a portable desk of his own construction in a room at Market and 7th Sts. The committee reported the result on June 28, 1776. The members of the Congress suggested a number of changes, which Jefferson called “deplorable.” They didn't approve Jefferson's arraignment of the British people and King George III for encouraging and fostering the slave trade, which Jefferson called “an execrable commerce.” They made 86 changes, eliminating 480 words and leaving 1,337. In the final form, capitalization was erratic. Jefferson had written that men were endowed with “inalienable” rights; in the final copy it came out as “unalienable” and has been thus ever since. **The Declaration of Independence was adopted in the east room of the building on July 4, 1776, and four days later, the famous Liberty Bell, then in the tower of the hall, was rung to proclaim its adoption.
The Lee-Adams resolution of independence was adopted by 12 yeas on July 2—the actual date of the act of independence. The Declaration, which explains the act, was adopted July 4, in the evening.
After the Declaration was adopted, July 4, 1776, it was turned over to John Dunlap, printer, to be printed on broadsides. The original copy was lost and one of his broadsides was attached to a page in the journal of the Congress. It was read aloud July 8 in Philadelphia, PA, Easton, PA, and Trenton, NJ. On July 9 at 6 PM it was read by order of Gen. George Washington to the troops assembled on the Common in New York City (City Hall Park).
The Continental Congress of July 19, 1776, adopted the following resolution:
“Resolved, That the Declaration passed on the 4th, be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of ‘The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America' and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.”
Not all delegates who signed the engrossed Declaration were present on July 4. Robert Morris (PA), William Williams (CT), and Samuel Chase (MD) signed on Aug. 2; Oliver Wolcott (CT), George Wythe (VA), Richard Henry Lee (VA), and Elbridge Gerry (MA) signed in August and September; Matthew Thornton (NH) joined the Congress Nov. 4 and signed later. Thomas McKean (DE) rejoined Washington's army before signing and said later that he signed in 1781.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton was appointed a delegate by Maryland on July 4, 1776, presented his credentials July 18, and signed the engrossed Declaration on Aug. 2. Born Sept. 19, 1737, he was 95 years old and the last surviving signer when he died on Nov. 14, 1832.
Two Pennsylvania delegates who did not support the Declaration on July 4 were replaced.
The 4 New York delegates did not have authority from their state to vote on July 4. On July 9, the New York state convention authorized its delegates to approve the Declaration, and the Congress was so notified on July 15, 1776. The 4 signed the Declaration on Aug. 2.
The original engrossed Declaration is preserved in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
An article from The World Almanac and Book of Facts. © 2005 World Almanac Education Group. A WRC Media Company. All rights reserved. Except as otherwise permitted by written agreement, uses of the work inconsistent with U.S. and applicable foreign copyright and related laws are prohibited.


Remember the Ladies!

Born in 1744 in Massachusetts, Abigail Adams had no formal schooling. But her curiosity spurred her keen intelligence, and she avidly read all the books she could-the Bible, history, sermons, philosophy, essays, and poetry. Adams would become one of the most well-read women in America an among the most influential women of her day.

By the time she was 17 years old, she & 26-year-old John were exchanging love letters. They were married two years later. Making history keeps you on the road a great deal, so Abby had some time on her hands while John was off establishing a new nation. She used it well. Aside from the usual female duties - raising a future president (John Quincy Adams) and all that-she campaigned for women’s rights in a series of brilliant letters.

Her rational, measured tone belied a strong & unique message for its day.

On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams (1744-1818) wrote to her husband John Adams, who was on the committee preparing the Declaration of Independence. ***Homework: Respond to her following letter in a typed paragraph response.

MARCH 31, 1776:
"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.
"Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.
"Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
"That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up -- the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend.
"Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity?
"Men of sense in all ages abhor (dislike) those customs which treat us only as the (servants) of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness."

 Try going to or to look up the following words!
 Do not always select the first definition – use your brain!
Declaration of Independence Vocabulary

1. Unalienable:
2. Transient:
3. Usurpations:
4. Despotism:
5. Tyranny:
6. Candid:
7. Assent:
8. Inestimable:
9. Depository:
10. Annihilation:
11. Migration:
12. Harass:
13. Quartering:
14. Perfidy:
15. Redress:
16. Unwarrantable:
17. Magnanimity:
18. Consanguinity:
19. Rectitude:
20. Levy:


Declaration of Independence Vocabulary

1. Unalienable: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred
2. Transient: passing especially quickly into and out of existence
3. Usurpations: to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right
4. Despotism: system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power : ABSOLUTISM
5. Tyranny: oppressive power exerted by government; a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler;
6. Candid: free from bias, prejudice, or malice : FAIR
7. Assent: to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration : CONCUR
8. Inestimable: too valuable or excellent to be measured or appreciated
9. Depository: a place where something is deposited especially for safekeeping (a person to whom something is entrusted)
10. Annihilation: to cause to be of no effect : NULLIFY b : to destroy the substance or force of
11. Migration: to move from one country, place, or locality to another
12. Harass: to worry and impede by repeated raids; to annoy persistently
13. Quartering: to provide with lodging or shelter
14. Perfidy: the quality or state of being faithless or disloyal : TREACHERY
15. Redress: to set right : REMEDY; COMPENSATE; AVENGE
16. Unwarrantable: not justifiable : INEXCUSABLE
17. Magnanimity: loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity
18. Consanguinity: the quality or state of being consanguineous; a close relation or connection
19. Rectitude: moral integrity : RIGHTEOUSNESS
20. Levy (verb): to carry on (war) : WAGE