This Week in History

Declaration Of Independence Approved

4 July 1776

13 British colonies in North America claim independence from Great Britain.

In 1776, during the War for Independence, the Second Continental Congress, comprised of representatives from 13 British colonies in North America, approved the "Declaration of Independence" as drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The document claimed that if a government was tyrannical, the people had a right to overthrow it, and because of Great Britain's oppressive acts against them, the colonies had the right to declare themselves free and independent states.

declaration of independence (noun): statement that a country is free from all others
approve (verb): give permission to do something
draft (verb): write out and prepare (a law, subject to its approval)
tyrannical (adjective): exercising power in a cruel or arbitrary way
overthrow (verb): take over or bring down (a government)
oppressive (adjective): keeping others down; preventing others from doing what they want

Transcript: When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 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.

Test your understanding:

The Declaration of Independence claimed people had the right to overthrow

  1. 13 British colonies
  2. free and independent states
  3. tyrannical or oppressive governments

The Declaration of Independence was approved in 1776 by

  1. the Second Continental Congress
  2. the British government
  3. Thomas Jefferson

Most tyrannical governments stay in power by

  1. winning free and fair elections
  2. committing oppressive acts
  3. allowing protests against them

Teacher's Notes - how to use This Week in History in your classes

Contributor: Matt Errey. Matt is the author of several books including 1000 Phrasal Verbs in Context and Common English Idioms for learners, and Matt's ESL Games and Quizzes for teachers. He is also creator of WORD UP, the world's #1 EFL board game.