Pauline Maier shows the Declaration
as both the defining statement of national identity and the moral standard by which we live as a nation-- truly 'American Scripture
'. She tells how it came to be--from its birth in the struggle by which Americans arrived at Independence to the ways in which the document itself became sanctified. She describes the transformation of the Second Continental Congress
into a national government, unlike anything preceding or following it, with more authority than colonists would ever have conceded the British Parliament; the great difficulty in making the decision for Independence; the influence of Thomas Paine
's Common Sense
, which shifted the terms of debate; and the political maneuvers allowing Congress to make the decision.
The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia beginning in 1776 and produced the Declaration of Independence as well as the Articles of Confederation. Thomas Paine wrote influential pamphlets during the American Revolution, which have inspired revolutionaries ever since.