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
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 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
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 endeavored 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
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by
refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing
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 harass 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
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
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
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a
neighboring 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 complete 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 endeavored 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
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
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
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