|What are some things people are willing to fight for?|
This question is asked in the context of 40 years of conflict (1750 to 1790) in North America. People from France, England, and Spain had settled permanently in North America, the homeland of the Native Americans. These groups of people all struggled to secure rights to what are now the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about the Struggle for North America
A variety of historical documents and artifacts shed light on the events of this era, about 250 years ago.
Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence
Perhaps the most famous primary source of the Revolutionary Era is the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence
The Library of Congress gives online access to a document that reveals Jefferson’s thought process as he composed the document. This document, which Jefferson called the “Independance [sic] Declaration of original Rough draught,” includes the phrases Jefferson crossed out and the words he inserted as he carefully crafted one of the most important political documents ever written.
Statue of Jefferson
You can read what Jefferson wrote in June of 1776 and how he changed the work with the help of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. See also the time line of events that led to the signing of the Declaration – on August 2, 1776, not July 4, 1776!
Drafting the Declaration
The Continental Congress appointed Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson to a committee to write a Declaration of Independence. The members were carefully chosen – two from the New England colonies (Adams from Massachusetts and Sherman from Rhode Island), two from the Middle Atlantic (Livingston from New York and Franklin from Pennsylvania), and one from the South (Jefferson).
Writing for a Purpose: How Editing Helps Writers Achieve Their Goals
1. Review the reasons why the Continental Congress created the Declaration of Independence: to list the colonists’ complaints against the British and to formally declare that the colonies had decided to become a new and separate nation free from British rule.
2. Discuss how all writers, even those as talented as Thomas Jefferson, have to edit their work for correctness and clarity in order to achieve the purposes of their writing.
3. Copy or write portions of the text version of Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration, as reconstructed by Professor Julian P. Boyd. Boyd was editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 1, 1760-1776 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950, pp 243-247).
4. Copy or write the same portions from the “final draft” of the Declaration.
5. Have your students list (in writing or orally) five words or phrases that were in Jefferson’s rough draft, but that were removed from the final document. Have them analyze the changes by asking these questions:
Additional Primary Sources
Chapter 10: Competition in North America
Chapter 11: The Colonists Rebel
Chapter 12: The American Revolution
Image credits: a. National Archives and Records Administration; b. Hisham F. Ibrahim/Getty Images