In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
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
[George III] 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.
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.
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
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 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:
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
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
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 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.
signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis
Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith,
George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas
Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton