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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE-1776 1

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united

States of America

WHEN in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the cor ent of governed,

-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and

1 The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire; Massachusetts Bay; Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Pennsylvania; New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, in Delaware; Maryland; Virginla; North Carolina, and South Carolina, In Congress assembled at Philadelphia, Resolved on the 10th of May, 1776, to recommend to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs had been established, to adopt such a government as should, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and of America in general. A preamble to this resolution, agreed to on the 15th of May, stated the intention to be totally to suppress the exercise of every kind of authority under the British crown. On the 7th of June, certain resolutions respecting independency were moved and seconded. On the 10th of June it was resolved, that a committee should be appointed to prepare a declaration to the following effect: "That the United Colonies 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." On the preceding day it was determined that the committee for preparing the declaration should consist of five, and they were chosen accordingly, in the following order: Mr. Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, Mr. R. R, Livingston. On the 11th of June a resolution was passed to appoint a committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between the colonies, and another committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers. On the 12th of June, It was resolved, that a committee of Congress should be appointed by the name of a board of war and ordnance, to consist of five members. On the 25th of June, a declaration of the deputies of Pennsylvania, met in provincial conference, expressing their willingness to concur in a vote declaring the United Colonies free and Independent States, was laid before Congress and read. On the 28th of June, the committee appointed to prepare

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organizing its powers in such form, as to them sha! seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. a declaration of independence brought in a draught, which was read, and ordered to lie on the table. On the 1st of July, a resolution of the convention of Maryland, passed the 28th of June, authorizing the deputies of that colony to concur in declaring the United Colonies free and independent States, was laid before Congress and read. On the same day Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the resolution respecting independency. On the 2d of July, a resolution declaring the colonies free and independent States, was adopted. A declaration to that effect was, on the same and the following days, taken into further consideration. Finally, on the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence was agreed to, engrossed on paper, signed by John Hancock as president, and directed to be sent to the several assemblies, conventions, and committees, or councils of safety. and to the several commanding officers of the continental troops, and to be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the Army. It was also ordered to be entered upon the Journals of Congress, and on the 2d of August, a copy engrossed on parchment was signed by all but one of the fifty-six signers whose names are appended to it. That one was Matthew Thornton, of New Hampshire, who on taking his seat in November asked and obtained the privilege of signing it. Several who signed it on the 2d of August were absent when it was adopted on the 4th of July, but, approving of it, they thus signified their approbation.

NOTE.-The proof of this document, as published above. was read by Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, the Keeper of the Rolls at the Department of State, at Washington, who compared it with the fac-simile of the original in his custody. He says: "In the fac-simile, as in the original, the whole Instrument runs on without a break, but dashes are mostly inserted. I have, in this copy, followed the arrangement of paragraphs adopted in the publication of the Declaration in the newspaper of John Dunlap, and as printed by him for • the Congress, which printed copy is inserted in the original

Journal of the old Congress. The same paragraphs are also made by the author, in the original draught preserved in the Department of State.”

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most Immediate and pressing importance, unless sus- valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms pended in their operation till his Assent should be

of our Governments: obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly

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

foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 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

of a civilized nation. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, 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 Trial by Jury:

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,

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New Jersey RICHD. STOCKTON,

JOHN HART, JNO. WITHERSPOON, ABRA. CLARK. FRAS. HOPKINSON,

Pennsylvania ROBT. MORRIS,

JAS. SMITH, BENJAMIN RUSH,

GEO. TAYLOR, BENJA. FRANKLIN,

JAMES WILSON, JOHN MORTON,

GEO. Ross. GEO. CLYMER,

Georgia
BUTTON GWINNETT, GEO. WALTON.
LYMAN HALL,

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."

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