IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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:
depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
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:
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.
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 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 Brittish 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 positions
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee