The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen
When, in the course of human events,
it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds
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 to 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
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
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
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
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
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 migration 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 harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the
consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to
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 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 neighboring
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 in 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, burned 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 their hands.
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 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
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have
warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to
extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over
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
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.
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 Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams,
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis
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,
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of
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, George Walton
Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776