Declaration of Independence
a document adopted on July 4, 1776, that made the official break with Britain. It was drafted by a committee of the Second Continental Congress including the principal writer Thomas Jefferson. The committee was Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston (NY), and Roger Sherman (CT). The declaration was a public explanation of reason for colonial discontent and provided a rationale for independence. It drew primarily on Jefferson's own draft preamble to the Virginia Constitution and George Mason's draft of Virginia's Declaration of Rights. The document stressed the natural rights of Life, liberty and property, the right of citizens to overthrow their government if it does not protect the peoples' rights (a compelling restatement of John Locke's contract theory of government). Parliament was never mentioned in the Declaration.