Declaration of Independence
Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776 The
unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of
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.
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
HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to
cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers,
incapable of the 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 the
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
HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither
Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their
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 a mock Trial, from Punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these
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
FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended
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 Rules 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
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 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. GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo.
Walton. NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr., Thomas
Lynch, junr., Arthur Middleton. MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm.
Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. VIRGINIA,
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja.
Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter
Braxton. PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja.
Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor,
James Wilson, Geo. Ross. DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis
Morris. NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras.
Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark. NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah
Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton. MASSACHUSETTS-BAY,
Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, C. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams,
IN CONGRESS, JANUARY 18, 1777.