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" Drafted by Thomas Jefferson
between June 11 and June 28, 1776,
the Declaration of Independence is at once
the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty
and Jefferson's most enduring monument.
Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases,
Jefferson expressed the convictions
in the minds and hearts of the American people.
The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new;
its ideals of individual liberty
had already been expressed by John Locke
and the Continental philosophers.
What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy
in "self-evident truths"
and set forth a list of grievances
against the King
in order to justify before the world
the breaking of ties between the colonies
and the mother country. "
Source: The Charters of Freedom website.