Declaration of Independence
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
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 them.
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 the
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 the 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 Civil Power.
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 Rules 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 and 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 British 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
GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton.
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr., Thomas Lynch, junr.,
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison,
Thos. Nelson, jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo.
Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross.
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart,
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, C. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.
IN CONGRESS, JANUARY 18, 1777.