to consider when reading the Declaration of Independence
Source: Avalon Project
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.
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 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 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.
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 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 harass 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 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;
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 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 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 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
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 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 British brethren.
We have warned them from time to time
of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction
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
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,
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 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, 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,