The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) consists of thre’e parts. First, a profound and eloquent statement of the political philosophy, the pholosophy of democracy and freedom. It emphasized that from time immemorial certain alienable rights had been given by the people to their rulers in the interest of peace and order. Whenever the raters failed IC protect interests, the people were justified in abolishing their government and establishing a new one.
Second, part of the Declaration was a statement of the specific grievances, designed to prove that George III had subverted American freedoms. This section was in accordance with the popular belief that ‘ Monarch himself had brought about the war by his tyrannical actions. Earlier Thomas Paine had published a pamphlet called Common Sense, in which similar attacks were made against George III. In the document some twenty five grievances against the British King were listed. Two of these prominent grievances said that the King ‘has refused assent to laws necessary for public good’ and ‘imposed taxes on us without our consent’.
Third part of the declaration consists of the ringing statement of Richard Henry Lee’s independence resolution.
“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 connections between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent States they have full power to bring war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which Independent States may of right do.”
Thus the declaration completely shut the door for reconciliation.
All those who lived in America had now to choose either way. He had to be a patriot for a loyalist. The declaration was soon published in Philadelphia and read for Washington and his troops in New York City. The next day New York Congress endorsed the declaration. Thus it was clear that the war was ahead and the issue could be settled only through military victory.
The English attitude to this declaration was very critical. The declaration was condemned and the charges against the King were labelled as ‘disingenious and native’. But in France and elsewhere, the document was hailed. The declaration was not merely considered as a classic expression of American principles, but or e of the fundamental documents in man’s great struggle for freedom and liberty.
The Lexington and Concord and the Second Continental Congress made it clear that there was no point of return and the war between the colonies and the British was inevitable. The assessment of the war is made by Prof. Oscar Handlin thus:
“In 1775 thirteen colonies that had become a nation even before they were independent embarked upon, a long war, the outcome of which established them firmly as a sovereign power. Their antagonist was the world’s greatest empire. Against this might, the colonists had the advantage of operating on home territory while a great distance separated their enemy from this base in Europe. Ultimately, they did not only win, but also gained a peace settlement, more favourable than most of them had dared anticipate.”
Before examining the event of the war let us examine the nature of the war. The war started slowly.
“This was the usual manner of eighteenth century conflicts Before the armies took the field they required long periods of preparation, while their commanders devised plans for campaigns and supplies were assembled and moved into place. Then, at last, there were brief battles with active fighting rarely extending for more than a few hours. Then followed months of reshuffling of forces and definition of new strategies.”
The American war was also fought in the same manner and can be grouped into three distinct phases.
In the first phase of war which lasted till the end of 1776 the British displayed their immense power to overcome the colonists.
In foe second phase which lasted till 1777, the British failed in their strategy.
During the third phase, the war was fought with the help of the French and resulted in decisive victory for colonists. Let us examine these phases of war in details to have a proper understanding.