Historical Background: On July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress
adopted the resolution, introduced by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams, which actually
declared independence from Great Britain. [It declared, in part, ``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.''
The Declaration, which explained why the Colonies (now States) declared their
independence, was adopted by the Continental Congress July 4, 1776. [The leading
draftsman was Thomas Jefferson, assisted by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R.
Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
The drafting of Declaration of Independence
is detailed here.] The text follows below.
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence
of the Thirteen Colonies 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
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 [George III] 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.
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 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.
affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
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 amoung 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
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
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 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
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 nation.
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.
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
The signers of the Declaration represented the new States as follows:
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine,
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
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,
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton,
George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
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, George Walton