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 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.
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.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine