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The Thirteen British Colonies on the east coast of North America issued a Declaration of Independence in 1776
The Thirteen British Colonies on the east coast of North America issued a Declaration of Independence in 1776
Prince Pedro surrounded by a crowd in São Paulo after breaking the news of Brazil's independence on 7 September 1822.
Prince Pedro surrounded by a crowd in São Paulo after breaking the news of Brazil's independence on 7 September 1822.
The Finnish Senate of 1917, Prime Minister P. E. Svinhufvud in the head of table. The Senate declared Finland independent on 4 December 1917, and it was confirmed by parliament 6 December 1917[1] which became the Independence Day of Finland.
The Finnish Senate of 1917, Prime Minister P. E. Svinhufvud in the head of table. The Senate declared Finland independent on 4 December 1917, and it was confirmed by parliament 6 December 1917[1] which became the Independence Day of Finland.

Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state, in which residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory. The opposite of independence is the status of a dependent territory. The commemoration of the independence day of a country or nation celebrates when a country is free from all forms of foreign colonialism; free to build a country or nation without any interference from other nations.

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"All men are created equal and they are endowed with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Not so fast, Mr. Jefferson! These words from the Declaration of Independence, and the facts behind them, are well known. In June of 1776, a little more than a year after the war against England began with the shots fired at Lexington and Concord, the Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia to discuss American independence. After long debates, a resolution of independence was approved on July 2, 1776. America was free! And men like John Adams thought we would celebrate that date forever. But it was two days later that the gentlemen in Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, largely written by Thomas Jefferson, offering all the reasons why the country should be free. More than 235 years later, we celebrate that day as America's birthday. But there are some pieces of the story you may not know. First of all, Thomas Jefferson gets the credit for writing the Declaration, but five men had been given the job to come up with a document explaining why America should be independent: Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were all named first. And it was Adams who suggested that the young, and little known, Thomas Jefferson join them because they needed a man from the influential Virginia Delegation, and Adams thought Jefferson was a much better writer than he was. Second, though Jefferson never used footnotes, or credited his sources, some of his memorable words and phrases were borrowed from other writers and slightly tweaked. Then, Franklin and Adams offered a few suggestions. But the most important change came after the Declaration was turned over to the full Congress. For two days, a very unhappy Thomas Jefferson sat and fumed while his words were picked over. In the end, the Congress made a few, minor word changes, and one big deletion. In the long list of charges that Jefferson made against the King of England, the author of the Declaration had included the idea that George the Third was responsible for the slave trade, and was preventing America from ending slavery. That was not only untrue, but Congress wanted no mention of slavery in the nation's founding document. The reference was cut out before the Declaration was approved and sent to the printer. But it leaves open the hard question: How could the men, who were about to sign a document, celebrating liberty and equality, accept a system in which some people owned others? It is a question that would eventually bring the nation to civil war and one we can still ask today.

Definition of independence

Whether the attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as legitimate means to achieving sovereignty.[2] In general, revolutions aim only to redistribute power with or without an element of emancipation,such as in democratization within a state, which as such may remain unaltered. For example, the Mexican Revolution (1910) chiefly refers to a multi-factional conflict that eventually led to a new constitution; it has rarely been used to refer to the armed struggle (1821) against Spain. However, some wars of independence have been described as revolutions, such as the ones in the United States (1783) and Indonesia (1949), while some revolutions that were specifically about a change in the political structure have resulted in breakaway states. Mongolia and Finland, for example, gained their independence during the revolutions occurring in China (1911) and Russia (1917) respectively. Causes for a country or province wishing to seek independence are many, but most can be summed up as a feeling of inequality compared to the dominant power. The means can extend from intended peaceful demonstrations as in the case of India (1947), to a violent war as in the case of Algeria (1962). In some cases, a country may also have declared independence, but may only be partially recognized by other countries; such as Kosovo (2008), whose independence Serbia, from which Kosovo has seceded, has not recognized.[3][4][5]

Distinction between independence and autonomy

Autonomy refers to a kind of independence which has been granted by an overseeing authority that itself still retains ultimate authority over that territory (see Devolution). A protectorate refers to an autonomous region that depends upon a larger government for its protection as an autonomous region.

Right to independence

During the 20th century wave of decolonization colonies gained rights to independence through documents such as the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, but this right remained mostly applicable only to unfree territorial entities, such as colonies.[6] How much these rights apply to all people has been a crucial point of discussion. The rights to nationality and self-determination allow clarification. The right of self-determination allows self-governance, as for example in the case of indigenous peoples, but is not a right of secession, except in extreme cases of oppression as a remedy from the oppression.[7] Therefore the right to secession is generally determined by the legislation of sovereign states and independence by the capacity to be a state.

Declarations of independence

photograph of crowd during pro-indepence demonstration
Public proclamation of the Estonian Declaration of Independence in Pärnu, Estonia on 23 February 1918
Ismail Qemali at the first anniversary of the Assembly of Vlorë which proclaimed the independence of Albania (28 November 1912)
Ismail Qemali at the first anniversary of the Assembly of Vlorë which proclaimed the independence of Albania (28 November 1912)

Sometimes, a state wishing to achieve independence from a dominating power will issue a declaration of independence; the earliest surviving example is Scotland's Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, with the most recent examples being Azawad's declaration of independence in 2012 and Catalan declaration of independence in 2017. Declaring independence and attaining it, however, are quite different. A well-known successful example is the U.S. Declaration of Independence issued in 1776. The dates of established independence (or, less commonly, the commencement of revolution), are typically celebrated as a national holiday known as an independence Day.

Historical overview

Historically, there have been four major periods of declaring independence:


Continent No. Last Country to Gain Independence
54  South Sudan (2011)
35  Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983)[a]
44  East Timor (2002)
50[b]  Montenegro (2006)
14  Palau (1994)[c]
N/A de facto condominium international

See also


  1. ^
    Independence from the United Kingdom.
  2. ^ a b
    Part of Transcaucasian Region, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Physiographically, Armenia falls entirely in Western Asia, while Georgia and Azerbaijan are mostly in Asia with small portions north of the Caucasus Mountains divide in Europe.
  3. ^
    An independent state in free association with the United States.


  1. ^ Osmo Jussila – Seppo Hentilä – Jukka Nevakivi (1999). From Grand Duchy to a Modern State: A Political History of Finland Since 1809. London: C. Hurst & Co. p. 103. ISBN 0-8093-9112-0.
  2. ^ Benjamin, Walter (1996) [1921]. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913–1926. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 236–252. ISBN 0-674-94585-9.
  3. ^ "Kosovo MPs proclaim independence". BBC News. February 17, 2008.
  4. ^ "The world's newest state". The Economist. February 21, 2008.
  5. ^ "International recognitions of the Republic of Kosovo". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on May 15, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  6. ^ "Legal Aspects of Self-Determination". The Princeton Encyclopedia of Self-Determination. February 11, 1918. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  7. ^ Shrinkhal, Rashwet (2021). ""Indigenous sovereignty" and right to self-determination in international law: a critical appraisal". AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. SAGE Publications. 17 (1): 71–82. doi:10.1177/1177180121994681. ISSN 1177-1801. S2CID 232264306.
  8. ^ David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence in World Context, Organization of American Historians, Magazine of History, Volume 18, Issue 3, Pp. 61–66 (2004)

Further reading

This page was last edited on 7 March 2023, at 17:12
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