The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It marked an official step taken by the American colonies toward independence from British rule.

Many colonists were unhappy with laws that collected taxes but did not give them a say in government. The Stamp Act of 1765, for example, collected taxes on items made of paper such as legal documents, newspapers, and even playing cards. The Townshend Acts of 1767 were a series of acts that involved taxing the colonies to raise revenue for Great Britain. The Boston Tea Party in 1773, when men boarded a ship full of British tea and dumped it into Boston Harbor, was a protest against taxation without representation. The discontent of the colonists, such as the colonial lack of participation in government, led to war with Great Britain.

During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), delegates to the Second Continental Congress met in the summer of 1776 to discuss independence from Great Britain. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee, a statesman from Virginia, appointed a committee to investigate how the colonies could become independent. Lee called for the drafting of an official statement of independence. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman were instructed to draft a resolution. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted to declare independence from England. After two days of debate and some changes to the document, the Congress voted to accept the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This action represented a formal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain.