Educate, Participate, Connect: Those are the three roles OVF wants to play with overseas voters. We're expanding on our Educational role with the Citizenship Challenge: a series of questions that test how much you -- and your expat friends and family -- know about our civic heritage. Could you pass the citizenship test asked of naturalized American citizens?
Question #2: What did the Declaration of Independence do?
Answer: Said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)
Tell Me More: That’s the official…and the easy answer. But if that had been it’s only function, the Declaration of Independence probably wouldn’t play such a primordial role in our national psyche.
After all, it is the very first paragraph of the document and the last that concern themselves with this basic intent: we’re breaking up with you, Great Britain.
But these are not that passages everyone can quote.
It’s the second paragraph that we remember. It establishes the principles that make Independence even imaginable: that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed and that the People have the right to institute a new government.
"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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
The rest of the document is a laundry list of 27 separate grievances against King George – including imposing taxes without consent and “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither...”
It also directly addresses “British brethren” to express disappointment in their failure to support American complaints.
And then it gets to the point:
"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..."
Did You Know? This original document was about 25 percent longer. The Continental Congress edited it in committee while Thomas Jefferson sat by suffering. According to A Cold Man’s Warm Words by Peggy Noonan, the cut that upset him the most came from that passage addressed directly to the British people. In it, he originally talked of love… and regret: "We might have been a free and great people together."
In the first draft of the Declaration, the last grievance also attacked King George for allowing slavery and the slave trade to continue and for offering to free slaves who agreed to fight for Great Britain.
It was among the first cuts imposed by the southern states.
Did You Know? The Declaration was not adopted nor signed on July 4, 1776. The Convention declared independence from Great Britain on July 2 and the 56 signers didn’t add their collective “John Hancocks” until early August. But it received the 18th-century equivalent of the rubber-stamp on July 4 so this the date we see on the document and the date eventually declared the national holiday.
Did You Know? Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph for his tomb:
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Citizenship Challenge questions are drawn from the civics portion of the Naturalization Test prepared by U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must pass an English proficiency test and respond correctly to at least six out of 10 questions taken from a list of 100 possibles.