Declaration of Independence
The foundation document of the United States of America, which proclaimed American separation from Britain and was adopted by the Continental Congress on 4 July 1776. Its principal author was Thomas Jefferson, who based its arguments on John Locke's ideas of contractual government. Its celebrated preamble declared that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There followed a detailed list of acts of tyranny committed by George III, his ministers, and Parliament against the American people, similar in tone to those in the English Bill of Rights (1689). The original document had 56 signatories whose names were initially kept secret for fear of British reprisals in the event of American defeat.