The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is one of the
most important documents in the history of the United States. It signifies
the colonies break from England and the rule of George III. The
Second Continental Congress formed a committee to write the Declaration,
but the Committee thought it would be better for only one man to write
the document. It took Thomas Jefferson seventeen days to write the Declaration
of Independence. On July 2, 1776 the Congress voted to declare independence
from England. After two days of debate and some changes to the document,
on July 4th, the Congress voted to accept the Declaration of Independence.
This is why we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day.
As you read the transcription of the Declaration
of Independence below, notice that the first part gives notice of the
break with England and the reasons for the break. The last part is a
list of grievances or complaints against George III.
CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
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 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
- 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
- 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 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
harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
- He has kept among
us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our
- He has affected
to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil
- 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 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 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 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 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.