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 consent of the 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 organizing its powers in such form, as to
them shall 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.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing
importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be
obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts
of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of
Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and
formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records,
for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly
firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others
to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation,
have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State
remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from
without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that
purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to
pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the
conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to
Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their
offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of
Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the
Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our
constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their
Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders
which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province,
establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries
so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing
the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
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, and has endeavoured to
bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages,
whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all
ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the
most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by
repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which
may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
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 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they
have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, 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, we mutually pledge to each other our
Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine