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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE-1776 1
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
organizing its powers in such form, as to them sha!)
seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long States of America
established should not be changed for light and
transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath WHEN in the Course of human events, it becomes shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves which have connected them with another, and to as- by abolishing the forms to which they are accussume among the powers of the earth, the separate tomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpaand equal station to which the Laws of Nature and
tions, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is opinions of mankind requires that they should de
their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Governclare the causes which impel them to the separation.
ment, and to provide new Guards for their future We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of men are created equal, that they are endowed by these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that constrains them to alter their former Systems of among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Government. The history of the present King of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Govern- Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and ments are instituted among Men, deriving their just usurpations, all having in direct object the estabpowers from the consent of the governed,—That lishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. whenever any Form of Government becomes destruc- To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid tive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to world. alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Govern- He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholement, laying its foundation on such principles and some and necessary for the public good.
1 The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hamp- a declaration of independence brought in a draught, which shire; Massachusetts Bay; Rhode Island and Providence was read, and ordered to lie on the table. On the 1st of Plantations; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Penn- July, a resolution of the convention of Maryland, passed sylvania; New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, in Delaware; the 28th of June, authorizing the deputies of that colony Maryland; Virginia; North Carolina, and South Carolina. In to concur in declaring the United Colonies free and indeCongress assembled at Philadelphla, Resolved on the 10th pendent States, was laid before Congress and read. On of May, 1776, to recommend to the respective assemblies the same day Congress resolved itself into a committee and conventions of the United Colonies, where no govern- of the whole, to take into consideration the resolution rement sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs had been specting independency. On the 2d of July, a resolution established, to adopt such a government as should, in the declaring the colonies free and independent States, was opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce adopted. A declaration to that effect was, on the same and to the happiness and safety of their constituents in par- the following days, taken into further consideration. F1ticular, and of America in general. A preamble to this nally, on the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence resolution, agreed to on the 15th of May, stated the inten- was agreed to, engrossed on paper, signed by John Hancock tion to be totally to suppress the exercise of every kind of as president, and directed to be sent to the several assemauthority under the British crown, On the 7th of June, blies, conventions, and committees, or councils of safety, certain resolutions respecting independency were moved and to the several commanding officers of the continental and seconded. On the 10th of June it was resolved, that a troops, and to be proclaimed in each of the United States. committee should be appointed to prepare a declaration to and at the head of the Army. It was also ordered to be the following effect: "That the United Colonies are, and entered upon the Journals of Congress, and on the 2d of of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they August, a copy engrossed on parchment was signed by all are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and but one of the fifty-six signers whose names are appended that all political connection between them and the State of to it. That one was Matthew Thornton, of New Hampshire, Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." On who on taking his seat in November asked and obtained the preceding day it was determined that the committee the privilege of signing it. Several who signed it on the for preparing the declaration should consist of five, and 2d of August were absent when it was adopted on the 4th they were chosen accordingly, in the following order: Mr. of July, but, approving of it, they thus signified their Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, Mr. approbation R. R. Livingston. On the 11th of June a resolution was NOTE.-The proof of this document, as published above. passed to appoint a committee to prepare and digest the was read by Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, the Keeper of the form of a confederation to be entered into between the Rolls at the Department of State, at Washington, who comcolonies, and another committee to prepare a plan of pared it with the fac-simile of the original in his custody. treaties to be proposed to foreign powers. On the 12th He says: "In the fac-simile, as in the original, the whole of June, It was resolved, that a committee of Congress instrument runs on without a break, but dashes are mostly should be appointed by the name of a board of war and inserted. I have, in this copy, followed the arrangement of ordnance, to consist of five members. On the 25th of paragraphs adopted in the publication of the Declaration in June, a declaration of the deputies of Pennsylvania, met the newspaper of John Dunlap, and as printed by him for in provincial conference, expressing their willingness to * the Congress, which printed copy is inserted in the original concur in a vote declaring the United Colonies free and Journal of the old Congress. The same paragraphs are Independent States, was laid before Congress and read. also made by the author, in the original draught preserved On the 28th of June, the committee appointed to prepare in the Department of State."
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring neglected to attend to them.
themselves invested with power to legislate for us He has refused to pass other Laws for the accom- in all cases whatsoever. modation of large districts of people, unless those
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring people would relinquish the right of Representation
us out of his Protection and waging War against us. in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, formidable to tyrants only.
burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our He has called together legislative bodies at places
people. unusual, uncomfortable, and distance from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose
He is at this time transporting large Armies of of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly,
desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumfor opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the
stances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the rights of the people.
most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head He has refused for a long time, after such dissolu
of a civilized nation. tions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken CapLegislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have tive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their returned to the People at large for their exercise; Country, to become the executioners of their friends the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. the dangers of invasion from without, and convul- He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, sions within.
and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of He has endeavoured to prevent the population of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destrucfor Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass tion of all ages, sexes and conditions. others to encourage their migrations hither, and
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petiraising the conditions of new Appropriations of
tioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our Lands.
repeated Petitions have been answered only by reHe has obstructed the Administration of Justice, peated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judi- marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is ciary powers.
unfit to be the ruler of a free people. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time payment of their salaries.
to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an He has erected a multitude of New Ofices, and sent unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have rehither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and
minded them of the circumstances of our emigration eat out their substance.
and settlement here. We have appealed to their . He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing native justice and magnanimity, and we have conArmies without the Consent of our legislatures.
jured them by the ties of our common kindred to He has affected to render the Military independent disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably of and superior to the Civil power.
interrupt our connections and correspondence. They He has combined with others to subject us to a too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unac- consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the knowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold acts of pretended Legislation:
them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in For quartering large bodies of armed troops among War, in Peace Friends. us:
WE, THEREFORE, the Representatives of the UNITED For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punish- STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, ment for any Murders which they should commit on appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the the Inhabitants of these States:
rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solworld:
emnly publish and declare, That these United ColFor imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: onies are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDE
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of PENDENT STATES; that they are Absolved from all
Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all politFor transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for ical connection between them and the State of Great pretended offenses:
Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and For abolishing the free System of English Laws in that as Free and Independent States, they have full a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Ar- Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Allibitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so ances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts as to render it at once an example and fit instrument and Things which Independent States may of right for introducing the same absolute rule into these do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a Colonies:
firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE-1776
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
New Hampshire JOSIAH BARTLETT,
MATTHEW THORNTON. WM. WHIPPLE,
Massachusetts Bay SAML. ADAMS,
ROBT. TREAT PAINE, JOHN ADAMS,
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us,
Delaware CÆSAR RODNEY,
THO. M'KEAN. GEO. READ,
Maryland SAMUEL CHASE,
CHARLES CARROLL of CarWM. PACA,
rollton. THOS. STONE,
Virginia GEORGE WYTHE,
THOS. NELSON, Jr., RICHARD HENRY LEE, FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE, TH. JEFFERSON,
CARTER BRAXTON. BENJA. HARRISON,
North Carolina WM. HOOPER,
NOTE.--Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, Keeper of the Rolls in the Department of State, at Washington, says: “The names of the signers are spelt above as in the fac-simile of the original, but the punctuation of them is not always the same; neither do the names of the States appear in the fac-simile of the original. The names of the signers of each State are grouped together in the fac-simile of the original, except the name of Matthew Thornton, which follows that of Oliver Wolcott."
and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Peti-
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their. native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of
consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
WE, THEREFORE, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, In the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Col. onies are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Aluances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,