For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence

By Alexander Tsesis | Go to book overview

2
BECOMING INDEPENDENT

THE AMERICAN COLONIES BEGAN COOPERATING POLITICALLY AGAINST British rule even before they adopted the Declaration of Independence. In 1774, delegates from twelve of thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress to decide how to respond to coercive British laws. Passions ran high against acts permitting British officers to requisition private property for billeting soldiers and cutting off seaborne trade to Boston. Initially, most delegates hoped to mend relations with England, while only a small faction favored independence. At that point, British leaders probably could have negotiated mutually favorable terms to resolve colonial grievances; instead, a power struggle ensued that resulted in the American Revolution.

All the colonies except Georgia sent representatives to the First Congress. Members were inching their way toward the treasonous proclamation that Congress derived “all its power, wisdom and justice, not from scrolls of parchment, signed by Kings, but from the People.” The most radical leaders came from Massachusetts and Virginia. For almost two years, moderates from New York, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania controlled the pace of negotiations with the Crown, anticipating that King George III would respond favorably to American petitions protesting parliamentary decrees. In the first year of intercolonial governance,

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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Becoming Independent 6
  • 3 - The Nation’s Infancy 24
  • 4 - Youthful Republic 40
  • 5 - Compromising for the Sake of Expansion 57
  • 6 - Jacksonian Era Democracy 75
  • 7 - Subordination 100
  • 8 - The Unraveling Bonds of Union 129
  • 9 - Sectional Cataclysm 148
  • 10 - Reconstruction 179
  • 11 - Racial Tensions 202
  • 12 - Advancing Women’s Causes 215
  • 13 - The Changing Face of Labor 227
  • 14 - International Impact and Domestic Advance 241
  • 15 - The Declaration in a New Deal State 264
  • 16 - Independence Principles in the Civil Rights Era 283
  • 17 - Epilogue 312
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Appendix - The Declaration of Independence 321
  • Notes 327
  • Index 377
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