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
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
equal, that they are endowed by their
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
That whenever any form of government
becomes destructive to 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 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
--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
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 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 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 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
He has erected a multitude of new offices,
and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their
He has kept among us, in times of peace,
standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military
independent of and superior to 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
For protecting them, by mock trial, from
punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of
For cutting off our trade with all parts of
For imposing taxes on us without our
For depriving us in many cases, of the
benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond 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 in these
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
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, burned 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 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
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
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 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,
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
we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William
Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams,
John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel
Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
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 Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read,
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca,
Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
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., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall,
Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8,