Technically, the Declaration of Independence was written over a period of days by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams; it was signed--not in a grand ceremony--but sporadically as the delegates to the Second Continental Congress risked capture to come in and out of Philadelphia on July 2-3, 1776. The next day, the 4th of July, (after having copies printed all night long) it was announced to the world on what we now celebrate as Independence Day.
The real power, of course was not technical but spiritual and political. This grand document laid out the belief that all men are created equal and endowed by God (not a king or government) with rights that could not be denied them. Because Britain had sought to withhold these rights from the American colonists, so the document read, the people had the right and obligation to throw off the chains of tyranny and take their rightful place as a free and independent nation among all others on earth.
At the end of the Declaration of Independence, the brave men who signed it declared that to "this end, we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Imagine it. These few (less than 100) individuals daring to affix their signatures to a document that openly defied the tyranny and might of the British Empire. Truly, these were "dead men walking" and had they been captured they would have paid the ultimate price at the end of an English rope.
They prevailed over the next decade and the United States was born. Yet, since the very beginning, the true liberty of mankind and the rights of humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have required the greatest sacrifice to bring them forth and preserve them. As we enjoy the liberties of our country this Fourth of July weekend, let's pause and remember those who risked and gave all to bring this nation into existence and those who over the centuries have continued to risk and give all to keep her free! God bless America!