[THE TEXT OF THIS DOCUMENT WAS TAKEN FROM THE 1994 U.S. CODE ON CD-ROM.]
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - 1776
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - 1776 (1)
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The 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 separation.
(1) The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire;
Massachusetts Bay; Rhode Island and Providence Plantations;
Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Pennsylvania; New Castle,
Kent, and Sussex, in Delaware; Maryland; Virginia; North
Carolina, and South Carolina, In Congress assembled at
Philadelphia, Resolved on the 10th of May, 1776, to recommend
to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United
Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of
their affairs had been established, to adopt such a
government as should, in the opinion of the representatives
of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of
their constituents in particular, and of America in general.
A preamble to this resolution, agreed to on the 15th of May,
stated the intention to be totally to suppress the exercise
of every kind of authority under the British crown. On the
7th of June, certain resolutions respecting independency were
moved and seconded. On the 10th of June it was resolved,
that a committee should be appointed to prepare a declaration
to the following effect: ''That the 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.'' On
the preceding day it was determined that the committee for
preparing the declaration should consist of five, and they
were chosen accordingly, in the following order: Mr.
Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, Mr. R. R.
Livingston. On the 11th of June a resolution was passed to
appoint a committee to prepare and digest the form of a
confederation to be entered into between the colonies, and
another committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be
proposed to foreign powers. On the 12th of June, it was
resolved, that a committee of Congress should be appointed by
the name of a board of war and ordnance, to consist of five
members. On the 25th of June, a declaration of the deputies
of Pennsylvania, met in provincial conference, expressing
their willingness to concur in a vote declaring the United
Colonies free and independent States, was laid before
Congress and read. On the 28th of June, the committee
appointed to prepare a declaration of independence brought in
a draught, which was read, and ordered to lie on the table.
On the 1st of July, a resolution of the convention of
Maryland, passed the 28th of June, authorizing the deputies
of that colony to concur in declaring the United Colonies
free and independent States, was laid before Congress and
read. On the same day Congress resolved itself into a
committee of the whole, to take into consideration the
resolution respecting independency. On the 2d of July, a
resolution declaring the colonies free and independent
States, was adopted. A declaration to that effect was, on
the same and the following days, taken into further
consideration. Finally, on the 4th of July, the Declaration
of Independence was agreed to, engrossed on paper, signed by
John Hancock as president, and directed to be sent to the
several assemblies, conventions, and committees, or councils
of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the
continental troops, and to be proclaimed in each of the
United States, and at the head of the Army. It was also
ordered to be entered upon the Journals of Congress, and on
the 2d of August, a copy engrossed on parchment was signed by
all but one of the fifty-six signers whose names are appended
to it. That one was Matthew Thornton, of New Hampshire, who
on taking his seat in November asked and obtained the
privilege of signing it. Several who signed it on the 2d of
August were absent when it was adopted on the 4th of July,
but, approving of it, they thus signified their approbation.
Note. - The proof of this document, as published above, was
read by Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, the Keeper of the Rolls at
the Department of State, at Washington, who compared it with
the fac-simile of the original in his custody. He says: ''In
the fac-simile, as in the original, the whole instrument runs
on without a break, but dashes are mostly inserted. I have,
in this copy, followed the arrangement of paragraphs adopted
in the publication of the Declaration in the newspaper of
John Dunlap, and as printed by him for the Congress, which
printed copy is inserted in the original Journal of the old
Congress. The same paragraphs are also made by the author, in
the original draught preserved in the Department of State.''
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 distance 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 within.
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:
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 Jury:
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 rule into these
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 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
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 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 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 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.
Josiah Bartlett, Matthew Thornton.
Saml. Adams, Robt. Treat Paine,
John Adams, Elbridge Gerry.
Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
Roger Sherman, Wm. Williams,
Sam'el Huntington, Oliver Wolcott.
Wm. Floyd, Frans. Lewis,
Phil. Livingston, Lewis Morris.
Richd. Stockton, John Hart,
Jno. Witherspoon, Abra. Clark.
Robt. Morris, Jas. Smith,
Benjamin Rush, Geo. Taylor,
Benja. Franklin, James Wilson,
John Morton, Geo. Ross.
Caesar Rodney, Tho. M'Kean.
Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll of
Wm. Paca, Carrollton.
George Wythe, Thos. Nelson, jr.,
Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot
Th. Jefferson, Lee,
Benja. Harrison, Carter Braxton.
Wm. Hooper, John Penn.
Thos. Heyward, Thomas Lynch, Junr.,
Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton.
Button Gwinnett, Geo. Walton.
Note. - Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, Keeper of the Rolls in the
Department of State, at Washington, says: ''The names of the
signers are spelt above as in the fac-simile of the original, but
the punctuation of them is not always the same; neither do the
names of the States appear in the fac-simile of the original. The
names of the signers of each State are grouped together in the
fac-simile of the original, except the name of Matthew Thornton,
which follows that of Oliver Wolcott.''