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The
DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE
July 4, 1776

Document Start    Return to Library

The committee submits the Declaration to the chair The American Revolution did not originally have as its goal the complete independence of the Colonies, only the resolution of grievances against the British Crown.

Unfortunately, Parliament proved deaf to the Colonists' petitions.

So in June of 1776 -- a year into the war with Britain -- the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five men, headed by Thomas Jefferson, to create a declaration stating that the colonies "are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States." Jefferson did most of the writing, and the document was returned to Congress on June 28th, and subjected to various revisions.

Independence was unanimously voted by Congress on July 2nd, and the Declaration of Independence unanimously accepted on July 4th. Copies of the document were then sent to the various States for approval.

The day after Congress voted for independence, Massachusetts delegate and future president John Adams penned a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he mirrors both the high hopes and the fears that must have attended all of the patriots who risked their lives and property to found our nation on that day.



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The
DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE
July 4, 1776

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 bonds 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 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 shown, 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 to the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation until 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 accomodation 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 of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration 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 harass our People, and eat out of their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the Miltary 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 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 benefit of Trial by Jury;

For transporting us beyond the Seas to be tried for pretended offences;

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 Government;

For suspending our own legislature, 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 paralleld in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of 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 attention 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 consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enmies 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 the 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.

John Hancock

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett
Wm. Whipple
Matthew Thornton


Massachusetts Bay

Saml. Adams
John Adams
Elbridge Gerry
Robt. Treat Paine


Rhode Island

Step. Hopkins
William Ellery


Connecticut

Roger Sherman
Sam'el Huntington
Wm. Williams
Oliver Wolcott


New York

Wm. Floyd
Phil. Livingston
Frans. Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey

Richd. Stockton
Jno. Witherspoon
Fras. Hopkinson
John Hart
Abra. Clark


Pennsylvania

Robt. Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benja. Franklin
John Morton
Geo. Clymer
Jas. Smith
Geo. Taylor
James Wilson
Geo. Ross


Delaware

Caesar Rodney
Geo. Read
Tho. M'Kean


Maryland

Samuel Chase
Wm. Paca
Thos. Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia

George Wuthe
Richard Henry Lee
Th. Jefferson
Benja. Harrison
Thos. Nelson, jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton


North Carolina

Wm. Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn


South Carolina

Edward Rutledge
Thos. Heyward, junr
Arthur Middleton
Thomas Lynch, junr


Georgia

Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
Geo. Walton
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