Declaration of Independence
Action of Second Continental
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.
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
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
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
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
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 offences:
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
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
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
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
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.