The Declaration of Independence (1776)
source: Thomas Jefferson, Writings. Merrill D. Peterson, I, 19-24.
Peterson's source: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 10 Volumes (New York, 1892-1899)
Autobiography, with the Declaration of Independence.
Paul Leicester, I, 3-162.
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled.
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 & 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
rights; that among these are life, liberty, & 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 abolish it,
& to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such
principles, & organizing it's powers in such form, as to them shall
seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. Prudence
indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be
changed for light & 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 &
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, & to provide new guards for their future
security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; &
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 & usurpations, all
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 & necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of
immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended in their
operation till his assent should be obtained; & when so suspended,
he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the
accomodation of large districts of people, unless those people would
relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right
inestimable to them, & 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
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 & 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, & 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 dependant on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, & the amount & paiment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of new 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 independant of, & superior to the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a
jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions & 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 for punishment for any murders which they should commit
on the inhabtants 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; fortransporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended
offences; for abolishing the free system of English laws in a
neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and
enlarging it's 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, & 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, & destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of
foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation &
tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy
scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, & 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 insurrection among us, & 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 injuries.
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 & 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 connection and correspondence. They too
have been deaf to the voice of justice & 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, & by the authority of the good people of these colonies,
solemnly publish & declare that these united colonies are & of
right ought to be free & independent states; that they are absolved
from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political
connection between them & the state of Great Britainis, & ought
to be, totally dissolved; & that as free & independent states
they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances,
establish commerce & to do all other acts & 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, & our sacred honor.
The Declaration thus signed on the 4th, on paper was
engrossed on parchment, & signed again on the 2d. of August