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The Declaration of Independence

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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 Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Name Born-Died Birthplace Colony Represented Profession Later Achievements
John Adams 1735–1826 Massachusetts Massachusetts Lawyer Vice-president of U.S. 1789–1797; President of U.S. 1797–1801
Samuel Adams 1722–1803 Massachusetts Massachusetts Businessman Governor of Massachusetts 1794–1797
Josiah Bartlett 1729–1795 Massachusetts New Hampshire Physician Governor of New Hampshire 1793–1794
Carter Braxton 1736–1797 Virginia Virginia Planter Member of Virginia Council of State 1786–1791, 1794–1797
Charles Carroll 1737–1832 Maryland Maryland Lawyer-Planter U.S. Senator from Maryland 1789–1792
Samuel Chase 1741–1811 Maryland Maryland Lawyer Associate Justice, Supreme Court of U.S. 1796–1811
Abraham Clark 1726–1794 New Jersey New Jersey Politician U.S. Rep. from New Jersey 1791–1794
George Clymer 1739–1813 Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Banker Signed U.S. Constitution; U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania 1789–1791
William Ellery 1727–1820 Rhode Island Rhode Island Lawyer Collector of Customs, Newport, R.I. 1790–1820
William Floyd 1734–1821 New York New York Farmer U.S. Rep. from New York 1789–1791
Benjamin Franklin 1706–1790 Massachusetts Pennsylvania Publisher Signed U.S. Constitution
Elbridge Gerry 1744–1814 Massachusetts Massachusetts Merchant Vice-president of U.S. 1813–1814
Button Gwinnett 1735(?)–1777 England Georgia Merchant Acting President of Georgia 1777
Lyman Hall 1724–1790 Connecticut Georgia Physician Governor of Georgia 1783
John Hancock 1737–1793 Massachusetts Massachusetts Merchant Governor of Massachusetts 1780–1785, 1787–1793
Benjamin Harrison 1726–1791 Virginia Virginia Planter Governor of Virginia 1781–1784
John Hart 1711(?)–1779 Connecticut New Jersey Farmer Died before Independence was won
Joseph Hewes 1730–1779 New Jersey North Carolina Merchant First executive head of American navy
Thomas Heyward, Jr. 1746–1809 South Carolina South Carolina Lawyer Artillery officer during Revolutionary War, captured and imprisoned by British
William Hooper 1742–1790 Massachusetts North Carolina Lawyer North Carolina State legislator 1777–1782
Stephen Hopkins 1707–1785 Rhode Island Rhode Island Merchant Delegate to the Continental Congress 1778
Francis Hopkinson 1737–1791 Pennsylvania New Jersey Lawyer Said to have designed U.S. Flag 1777, U.S. District Court judge 1789–1791
Samuel Huntington 1731–1796 Connecticut Connecticut Lawyer President of Continental Congress 1779–1781, Governor of Connecticut 1786–1796
Thomas Jefferson 1743–1826 Virginia Virginia Planter-Lawyer U.S. Secretary of State 1789–1793, Vice-President of U.S. 1797–1801, President of U.S. 1801–1809
Francis Lightfoot Lee 1734–1797 Virginia Virginia Planter Delegate to Continental Congress 1775–1779
Richard Henry Lee 1732–1794 Virginia Virginia Planter President of Continental Congress 1784, U.S. Senator from Virginia 1789–1792
Francis Lewis 1713–1802 Wales New York Merchant Retired
Philip Livingston 1716–1778 New York New York Merchant Died before Independence was won
Thomas Lynch, Jr. 1749–1779 South Carolina South Carolina Planter-Lawyer Died before Independence was won
Thomas McKean 1734–1817 Pennsylvania Delaware Lawyer Governor of Pennsylvania 1799–1808
Arthur Middleton 1742–1787 South Carolina South Carolina Lawyer-Planter Militia officer during Revolutionary War, captured and imprisoned by British
Lewis Morris 1726–1798 New York New York Landowner Major general in state militia during Revolutionary War
Robert Morris 1734–1806 England Pennsylvania Financier Signed U.S. Constitution, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania 1789–1795
John Morton 1724–1777 Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Farmer Died before Independence was won
Thomas Nelson 1738–1789 Virginia Virginia Planter-Merchant Commander-in-chief of state militia in Revolutionary War, Governor of Virginia 1781
William Paca 1740–1799 Maryland Maryland Lawyer Governor of Maryland 1782–1785, U.S. District Court judge 1789–1799
Robert Treat Paine 1731–1814 Massachusetts Massachusetts Lawyer Massachusetts Supreme Court justice 1790–1804
John Penn 1740–1788 Virginia North Carolina Lawyer Retired by ill health
George Read 1733–1798 Maryland Delaware Lawyer Signed U.S. Constitution, U.S. Senator 1789–1793, Chief Justice of Delaware 1793–1798
Caesar Rodney 1728–1784 Delaware Delaware Planter Commanded state militia in Revolutionary War, President of Delaware 1778–1781
George Ross 1730–1779 Delaware Pennsylvania Lawyer Admiralty judge of Pennsylvania 1779
Benjamin Rush 1745–1813 Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Physician Treasurer of U.S. Mint 1797–1813
Edward Rutledge 1749–1800 South Carolina South Carolina Planter-Lawyer Governor of South Carolina 1798–1800
Roger Sherman 1721–1793 Massachusetts Connecticut Merchant-Lawyer Signed U.S. Constitution, U.S. Senator from Connecticut 1791–1793
James Smith 1719(?)–1806 Ireland Pennsylvania Lawyer Pennsylvania Court of Appeals judge 1781
Richard Stockton 1730–1781 New Jersey New Jersey Lawyer Imprisoned by British during Revolutionary War
Thomas Stone 1743–1787 Maryland Maryland Lawyer Helped frame Articles of Confederation
George Taylor 1716–1781 Ireland Pennsylvania Iron-maker Retired by ill health
Matthew Thornton 1714(?)–1803 Ireland New Hampshire Physician Associate justice of New Hampshire Superior Court
George Walton 1741–1804 Virginia Georgia Lawyer U.S. Senator from Georgia 1795–1796
William Whipple 1730–1785 Maine New Hampshire Merchant Brigadier general during Revolutionary War
William Williams 1731–1811 Connecticut Connecticut Merchant Helped frame Articles of Confederation
James Wilson 1742–1798 Scotland Pennsylvania Lawyer Signed U.S. Constitution, Associate justice of Supreme Court of U.S. 1789–1798
John Witherspoon 1723–1794 Scotland New Jersey Clergyman President, College of New Jersey (now Princeton)
Oliver Wolcott 1726–1797 Connecticut Connecticut Politician-Soldier Governor of Connecticut 1796–1797
George Wythe 1726–1806 Virginia Virginia Lawyer First professor of law in America, Chancellor of Virginia 1786–1806

Phrases starting with the letter: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z