The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
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.
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 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.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1 Georgia:
Column 2 North Carolina:
John Penn South Carolina:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Column 3 Massachusetts:
John Hancock Maryland:
Charles Carroll of Carrollton Virginia:
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Column 4 Pennsylvania:
George Ross Delaware:
Column 5 New York:
Lewis Morris New Jersey:
Robert Treat Paine
From the time the Pilgrims in 1620 first ventured into a vast unknowable ocean, to land in a wilderness, and prayed and trusted GOD in their Christian faith...
...to the floor of the ensconced seat of a New Government on which their descendants could proclaim for themselves LIBERTY as a nation once again striking out into the unknown wilderness of existence in Independence and confidence in Almighty GOD...
...to the signing of the Constitution establishing a lasting and working Republic, guaranteeing in its own and successive generations a mutual pledge to honor FREEDOM and the RIGHTS of the Individual secured in a solemn sacred pledge that requires 2/3's of the Senate and 3/4ths of the States agreeing before they could in any way be altered or taken away, ensuring LIBERTY of the Individual in his affairs with Government...
...to the expansion of the borders of a new Nation growing Westward, looking for new Wildernesses to explore and overcome, and for its new generations to assert their own reliance upon GOD along with their new exploration of LIBERTY and INDEPENDENCE...
...America has in those generations and in the generations since, valued FREEDOM FROM Government as much as it has valued freedom in and with Government. To continually press and constrict Americans, by the very nature of the act, requires that the pressure be redirected at those who cause them ill, and to overwhelmingly respond accordingly. If the Federal Government fails to read the very first words of the Constitution of the United States, "WE the People of the United States", and fail to exercise the discretion of Jesus Christ to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", then they in the Federal Government fail to realize the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence and what it truly meant then, and what it truly means today. It is not a document of us and them, of YOU people with an exclusionary "us" who are exempt...no, it is a "WE THE PEOPLE" document.
Below, I am including a short version of a very long John Quincy Adams 61st anniversary of July 4, 1776 speech in which he explains some insights as regarding "Original Intent" and the inseparable religious belief systems in being a large part of why they chose Independence.
An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport,
at their request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837.
at their request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837.
By John Quincy Adams.
"Say ye not, A Confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." Isaiah 8:12.
Why is it, Friends and Fellow Citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, that, entering upon the sixty-second year of our national existence, you have honored with an invitation to address you from this place, a fellow citizen of a former age, bearing in the records of his memory, the warm and vivid affections which attached him, at the distance of a full half century, to your town, and to your forefathers, then the cherished associates of his youthful days? Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? – And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation?
Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?
Cast your eyes backwards upon the progress of time, sixty-one years from this day; and in the midst of the horrors and desolations of civil war, you behold an assembly of Planters, Shopkeepers and Lawyers, the Representatives of the People of thirteen English Colonies in North America, sitting in the City of Philadelphia. These fifty-five men, on that day, unanimously adopt and publish to the world, a state paper under the simple title of 'A DECLARATION.'
The object of this Declaration was two-fold.
First, to proclaim the People of the thirteen United Colonies, one People, and in their name, and by their authority, to dissolve the political bands which had connected them with another People, that is, the People of Great Britain.
Secondly, to assume, in the name of this one People, of the thirteen United Colonies, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God, entitled them.
With regard to the first of these purposes, the Declaration alleges a decent respect to the opinions of mankind, as requiring that the one people, separating themselves from another, should declare the causes, which impel them to the separation. – The specification of these causes, and the conclusion resulting from them, constitute the whole paper. The Declaration was a manifesto, issued from a decent respect of the opinions of mankind, to justify the People of the North American Union, for their voluntary separation from the People of Great Britain, by alleging the causes which rendered this separation necessary.
The Declaration was, thus far, merely an occasional state paper, issued for a temporary purpose, to justify, in the eyes of the world, a People, in revolt against their acknowledged Sovereign, for renouncing their allegiance to him, and dissolving their political relations with the nation over which he presided.
For the second object of the Declaration, the assumption among the powers of the earth of the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them, no reason was assigned, – no justification was deemed necessary.
The first and chief purpose of the Declaration of Independence was interesting to those by whom it was issued, to the people, their constituents in whose name it was promulgated, and to the world of mankind to whom it was addressed, only during that period of time, in which the independence of the newly constituted people was contested, by the wager of battle. Six years of War, cruel, unrelenting, merciless War, – War, at once civil and foreign, were waged, testing the firmness and fortitude of the one People, in the inflexible adherence to that separation from the other, which their Representatives in Congress had proclaimed. By the signature of the Preliminary Articles of Peace, on the 30th of November 1782, their warfare was accomplished, and the Spirit of the Lord, with a voice reaching to the latest of future ages, might have exclaimed, like the sublime prophet of Israel, – Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God [Isaiah 40:1].
But, from that day forth, the separation of the one People from the other was a solitary fact in their common history; a mere incident in the progress of human events, not more deserving of special and annual commemoration by one of the separated parts, than by the other. Still less were the causes of the separation subjects for joyous retrospection by either of the parties. – The causes were acts of misgovernment committed by the King and Parliament of Great Britain. In the exasperation of the moment they were alleged to be acts of personal tyranny and oppression by the King. George the third was held individually responsible for them all. The real and most culpable oppressor, the British Parliament, was not even named in the bill of pains and penalties brought against the monarch. – They were described only as "others" combined with him; and, after a recapitulation of all the grievances with which the Colonies had been afflicted by usurped British Legislation, the dreary catalogue was closed by the sentence of unqualified condemnation, that a prince, whose character was thus marked by every act which might define a tyrant, was unworthy to be the ruler of a free people.
The King, thus denounced by a portion of his subjects, casting off their allegiance to his crown, has long since gone to his reward. His reign was long, and disastrous to his people, and his life presents a melancholy picture of the wretchedness of all human grandeur; but we may now, with the candor of impartial history, acknowledge that he was not a tyrant. His personal character was endowed with many estimable qualities. His intentions were good; his disposition benevolent; his integrity unsullied; his domestic virtues exemplary; his religious impressions strong and conscientious; his private morals pure; his spirit munificent, in the promotion of the arts, literature and sciences; and his most fervent wishes devoted to the welfare of his people. But he was born to be a hereditary king, and to exemplify in his life and history the irremediable vices of that political institution, which substitutes birth for merit, as the only qualification for attaining the supremacy of power. George the third believed that the Parliament of Great Britain had the right to enact laws for the government of the people of the British Colonies in all cases. An immense majority of the people of the British Islands believed the same. That people were exclusively the constituents of the British House of Commons, where the project of taxing the people of the Colonies for a revenue originated; and where the People of the Colonies were not represented. The purpose of the project was to alleviate the burden of taxation bearing upon the people of Britain, by levying a portion of it upon the people of the Colonies. – At the root of all this there was a plausible theory of sovereignty, and unlimited power in Parliament, conflicting with the vital principle of English Freedom, that taxation and representation are inseparable, and that taxation without representation is a violation of the right of property. Here was a conflict between two first principles of government, resulting from a defect in the British Constitution: the principle that sovereign power in human Government is in its nature unlimited: and the principle that property can lawfully be taxed only with the consent of its owner. Now these two principles, carried out into practice, are utterly irreconcilable with each other. The lawyers of Great Britain held them both to be essential principles of the British Constitution. – In their practical application, the King and Parliament and people of Great Britain, appealed for the right to tax the Colonies to the unlimited and illimitable sovereignty of the Parliament. – The Colonists appealed to the natural right of property, and the articles of the Great Charter. The collision in the application of these two principles was the primitive cause of the severance of the North American Colonies, from the British Empire. The grievances alleged in the Declaration of Independence were all secondary causes, amply sufficient to justify before God and man the separation itself; and that resolution, to the support of which the fifty-five Representatives of the One People of the United Colonies pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, after passing through the fiery ordeal of a six years war, was sanctioned by the God of Battles, and by the unqualified acknowledgment of the defeated adversary.
This, my countrymen, was the first and immediate purpose of the Declaration of Independence. It was to justify before the tribunal of public opinion, throughout the world, the solemn act of separation of the one people from the other.
But this is not the reason for which you are here assembled. The question of right and wrong involved in the resolution of North American Independence was of transcendent importance to those who were actors in the scene. A question of life, of fortune, of fame, of eternal welfare. To you, it is a question of nothing more than historical interest. The separation itself was a painful and distressing event; a measure resorted to by your forefathers with extreme reluctance, and justified by them, in their own eyes, only as a dictate of necessity. – They had gloried in the name of Britons: It was a passport of honor throughout the civilized world. They were now to discard it forever, with all its tender and all its generous sympathies, for a name obscure and unknown, the honest fame of which was to be achieved by the gallantry of their own exploits and the wisdom of their own counsels.
But, with the separation of the one people from the other, was indissolubly connected another event. They had been British Colonies, – distinct and separate subordinate portions of one great community. In the struggle of resistance against one common oppressor, by a moral centripetal impulse they had spontaneously coalesced into One People. They declare themselves such in express terms by this paper. – The members of the Congress, who signed their names to the Declaration, style themselves the Representatives, not of the separate Colonies, but of the United States of America in Congress assembled. No one Colony is named in the Declaration, nor is there any thing on its face, indicating from which of the Colonies, any one of the signers was delegated. They proclaim the separation of one people from another. – They affirm the right of the People, to institute, alter, and abolish their Government: – and their final language is, "we 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." The Declaration was not, that each of the States was separately Free and Independent, but that such was their united condition. And so essential was their union, both in principle and in fact, to their freedom and independence, that, had one of the Colonies seceded from the rest, and undertaken to declare herself free and independent, she could have maintained neither her independence nor her freedom.
And, by this paper, this One People did notify the world of mankind that they thereby did assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them.
This was indeed a great and solemn event. The sublimest of the prophets of antiquity with the voice of inspiration had exclaimed, "Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?" [Isaiah 66:8]. In the two thousand five hundred years, that had elapsed since the days of that prophecy, no such event had occurred. It had never been seen before. In the annals of the human race, then, for the first time, did one People announce themselves as a member of that great community of the powers of the earth, acknowledging the obligations and claiming the rights of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God. The earth was made to bring forth in one day! A nation was born at once!
... The Declaration if Independence, in announcing to the world of mankind, that the People comprising the thirteen British Colonies on the continent of North America assumed, from that day, as One People, their separate and equal station among the powers of the earth, explicitly unfolded the principles upon which their national association had, by their unanimous consent, and by the mutual pledges of their faith, been formed. It was an association of mutual covenants. Every intelligent individual member of that self-constituted People did, by his representative in Congress, the majority speaking for the whole, and the husband and parent for the wife and child, bind his and their souls to a promise, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of his intentions, covenanting with all the rest that they would for life and death be faithful members of that community, and bear true allegiance to that Sovereign, upon the principles set forth in that paper. The lives, the fortunes, and the honour, of every free human being forming a part of those Colonies, were pledged, in the face of God and man, to the principles therein promulgated.
My countrymen! – the exposition of these principles will furnish the solution to the question of the purpose for which you are here assembled.
In recurring to those principles, let us remark,
First, that the People of the thirteen Colonies announced themselves to the world, and solemnly bound themselves, with an appeal to God, to be One People. And this One People, by their Representatives, declared the United Colonies free and independent States.
Secondly, they declared the People, and not the States, to be the only legitimate source of power; and that to the People alone belonged the right to institute, to alter, to abolish, and to re-institute government. And hence it follows, that as the People of the separate Colonies or States formed only parts of the One People assuming their station among the powers of the earth, so the People of no one State could separate from the rest, but by a revolution, similar to that by which the whole People had separated themselves from the People of the British Islands, nor without the violation of that solemn covenant, by which they bound themselves to support and maintain the United Colonies, as free and independent States.
An error of the most dangerous character, more than once threatening the dissolution by violence of the Union itself, has occasionally found countenance and encouragement in several of the States, by an inference not only unwarranted by the language and import of the Declaration, but subversive of its fundamental principles. This inference is that because by this paper the United Colonies were declared free and independent States, therefore each of the States, separately, was free, independent and sovereign. The pernicious and fatal malignity of this doctrine consists, not in the mere attribution of sovereignty to the separate States; for within their appropriate functions and boundaries they are sovereign; – but in adopting that very definition of sovereignty, which had bewildered the senses of the British Parliament, and which rent in twain the Empire; – that principle, the resistance to which was the vital spark of the American revolutionary cause, namely, that sovereignty is identical with unlimited and illimitable power.
The origin of this error was of a very early date after the Declaration of Independence, and the infusion of its spirit into the Articles of Confederation, first formed for the government of the Union, was the seed of dissolution sown in the soil of that compact, which palsied all its energies from the day of its birth, and exhibited it to the world only as a monument of impotence and imbecility.
The Declaration did not proclaim the separate States free and independent; much less did it announce them as sovereign States, or affirm that they separately possessed the war-making or the peace-making power. The fact was directly the reverse.
The Declaration was, that the United Colonies, forming one People, were free and independent States; that they were absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; that all political connection, between them and the State of Great Britain, was and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent States, they had full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things, which independent States may of right do. But all this was affirmed and declared not of the separate, but of the United, States. And so far was it from the intention of that Congress, or of the One People whom- they represented, to declare that all the powers of sovereignty were possessed by the separate States, that the specification of the several powers of levying war, concluding peace, contracting alliances, and establishing commerce, was obviously introduced as the indication of powers exclusively possessed by the one People of the United States, and not appertaining to the People of each of the separate States. This distinction was indeed indispensable to the necessities of their condition. The Declaration was issued in the midst of a war, commenced by insurrection against their common sovereign, and until then raging as a civil war. Not the insurrection of one of the Colonies; not the insurrection of the organized government of any one of the Colonies; but the insurrection of the People of the whole thirteen. The insurrection was one. The civil war was one. In constituting themselves one People, it could not possibly be their intention to leave the power of concluding peace to each of the States of which the Union was composed. The war was waged against all. The war itself had united the inhabitants of the thirteen Colonies into one People.
Thirdly, the Declaration of Independence announced the One People, assuming their station among the powers of the earth, as a civilized, religious, and Christian People, – acknowledging themselves bound by the obligations, and claiming the rights, to which they were entitled by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.
Of the following picture: Hat Tip to C-FACT.org
"Now let's set the record straight. There's no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there's only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.
Admittedly, there's a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum. And what then—when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we're retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he's heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he'd rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us.
You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it's a simple answer after all.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." "There is a point beyond which they must not advance." Winston Churchill said, "The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we're spirits—not animals." And he said, "There's something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness." -- Ronald Reagan