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The Declaration Of Independence
In Congress, July 4, 1776.
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 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 inalienable 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 a 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 has 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 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
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,
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 meantime, 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 migration hither, and raising
conditions of new appropriation of lands. He has obstructed the
administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws 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 to 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 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 the seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
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 and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the
most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized
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 insurrection among 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 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 connection 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.
The foregoing declaration was, by order of the Congress, engrossed, and
signed by the following members:
New Hampshire--Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
Massachusetts Bay--Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine,
Rhode Island--Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery.
Connecticut--Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver
New York--William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris.
New Jersey--Richard Stockton. John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John
Hart, Abraham Clark.
Pennsylvania--Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John
Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George
Delaware--Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean.
Maryland--Samuel Chase, William Paco, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, of
Virginia--George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin
Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
North Carolina--William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
South Carolina--Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr.,
Georgia--Button Gwinett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.
The following clause formed part of the original Declaration of
Independence as signed, but was finally left out of the printed copies
out of respect to South Carolina:
He [King George III.] has waged cruel war against human nature itself,
violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a
distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them
into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their
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