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Declaration of Independence (United States), in United States history, a
document proclaiming the independence of the 13 British colonies in America,
adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The declaration
recounted the grievances of the colonies against the British Crown and
declared the colonies to be free and independent states. The proclamation of
independence marked the culmination of a political process that had begun as
a protest against restrictions imposed by the mother country on colonial
trade, manufacturing, and political liberty and had developed into a
revolutionary struggle resulting in the establishment of a new nation.
After the United States was established, the statement of grievances in the
declaration ceased to have any but historic significance. The political
philosophy enunciated in the declaration, however, had a continuing influence
on political developments in America and Europe for many years. It served as
a source of authority for the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. Its
influence is manifest in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Citizen, adopted by the National Assembly of France in 1789, during the
French Revolution. In the 19th century, various peoples of Europe and of
Latin America fighting for freedom incorporated in their manifestos the
principles formulated in the Declaration of Independence.
The procedure by which the Declaration of Independence came into being was as
follows: On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, in the name of the Virginia
delegates to the Continental Congress, moved that “these united colonies are
and of right ought to be free and independent States, 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”. This motion was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts, but
action was deferred until July 1, and the resolution was passed on the
following day. In the meantime, a committee (appointed June 11) comprising
the delegates Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman,
and Robert R. Livingston was preparing a declaration in line with Lee's
resolution. Jefferson prepared the draft, using “neither book nor pamphlet”,
as he later said. Adams and Franklin made a number of minor changes in
Jefferson's draft before it was submitted to Congress, which, on July 4, made
a number of additional small alterations, deleted several sections, including
one condemning black slavery, incorporated Lee's resolution, and issued the
whole as the Declaration of Independence.
The declaration was adopted by a unanimous vote of the delegates of 12
colonies, those representing New York not voting because they had not been
authorized to do so. On July 9, however, the New York Provincial Congress
voted to endorse the declaration. The document was copied on to parchment in
accordance with a resolution passed by Congress on July 19. On August 2, it
was signed by the 53 members present. The three absentees signed
subsequently.
Congress directed that copies be sent “to the Assemblies, Conventions, and
Committees or Councils of Safety, and to the several commanding officers of
the continental troops, that it be proclaimed in each of the United States
and at the head of the army”.
Upon organization of the national government in 1789, the Declaration of
Independence was assigned for safekeeping to the Department of State. In
1841, it was deposited in the Patent Office, then a bureau of the Department
of State; in 1877 it was returned to the State Department. Because of the
rapid fading of the text and the deterioration of the parchment, the document
was withdrawn from exhibition in 1894. With other historic American
documents, it is now enshrined in the National Archives Exhibition Hall,
Washington, D.C., and is sealed in a glass and bronze case filled with inert
helium gas. It is from this document that the accompanying text is
reproduced.
     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, having 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 suffrance 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, 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 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 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 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 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 Citizen 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 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 attention 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 connection 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.
                          Chronology Of Events:                          
June 7, 1776 to January 18, 1777
1776
June 7 -- Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, receives Richard Henry Lee's
resolution urging Congress to declare independence.
June 11 -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman,
and Robert R. Livingston appointed to a committee to draft a declaration of
independence. American army retreats to Lake Champlain from Canada.
June 12 - 27 -- Jefferson, at the request of the committee, drafts a
declaration, of which only a fragment exists. Jefferson's clean, or "fair"
copy, the "original Rough draught," is reviewed by the committee. Both
documents are in the manuscript collections of the Library of Congress.
June 28 -- A fair copy of the committee draft of the Declaration of
Independence is read in Congress.
July 1 - 4 -- Congress debates and revises the Declaration of Independence.
July 2 -- Congress declares independence as the British fleet and army arrive
at New York.
July 4 -- Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a
bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day. John Dunlap prints the Declaration
of Independence. These prints are now called "Dunlap Broadsides." Twenty-four
copies are known to exist, two of which are in the Library of Congress. One
of these was Washington's personal copy.
July 5 -- John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, dispatches the
first of Dunlap's broadsides of the Declaration of Independence to the
legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware.
July 6 -- Pennsylvania Evening Post of July 6 prints the first
newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence.
July 8 -- The first public reading of the Declaration is in Philadelphia.
July 9 -- Washington orders that the Declaration of Independence be read
before the American army in New York -- from his personal copy of the "Dunlap
Broadside."
July 19 -- Congress orders the Declaration of Independence engrossed
(officially inscribed) and signed by members.
August 2 -- Delegates begin to sign engrossed copy of the Declaration of
Independence. A large British reinforcement arrives at New York after being
repelled at Charleston,   S.C.
1777
January 18 -- Congress, now sitting in Baltimore, Maryland, orders that
signed copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by Mary Katherine
Goddard of Baltimore be sent to the states.
Drafting the Documents
Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia
behind a veil of Congressionally imposed secrecy in June 1776 for a country
wracked by military and political uncertainties. In anticipation of a vote
for independence, the Continental Congress on June 11 appointed Thomas
Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R.
Livingston as a committee to draft a declaration of independence. The
committee then delegated Thomas Jefferson to undertake the task. Jefferson
worked diligently in private for days to compose a document. Proof of the
arduous nature of the work can be seen in the fragment of the first known
composition draft of the declaration, which is on public display here for the
first time.
Jefferson then made a clean or "fair" copy of the composition declaration,
which became the foundation of the document, labeled by Jefferson as the
"original Rough draught." Revised first by Adams, then by Franklin, and then
by the full committee, a total of forty-seven alterations including the
insertion of three complete paragraphs was made on the text before it was
presented to Congress on June 28. After voting for independence on July 2,
the Congress then continued to refine the document, making thirty-nine
additional revisions to the committee draft before its final adoption on the
morning of July 4. The "original Rough draught" embodies the multiplicity of
corrections, additions and deletions that were made at each step. Although
most of the alterations are in Jefferson's handwriting (Jefferson later
indicated the changes he believed to have been made by Adams and Franklin),
quite naturally he opposed many of the changes made to his document.
Congress then ordered the Declaration of Independence printed and late on
July 4, John Dunlap, a Philadelphia printer, produced the first printed text
of the Declaration of Independence, now known as the "Dunlap Broadside." The
next day John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, began
dispatching copies of the Declaration to America's political and military
leaders. On July 9, George Washington ordered that his personal copy of the
"Dunlap Broadside," sent to him by John Hancock on July 6, be read to the
assembled American army at New York. In 1783 at the war's end, General
Washington brought his copy of the broadside home to Mount Vernon. This
remarkable document, which has come down to us only partially intact, is
accompanied in this exhibit by a complete "Dunlap Broadside" -- one of only
twenty-four known to exist.
On July 19, Congress ordered the production of an engrossed (officially
inscribed) copy of the Declaration of Independence, which attending members
of the Continental Congress, including some who had not voted for its
adoption, began to sign on August 2, 1776. This document is on permanent
display at the National Archives.
On July 4, 1995, more than two centuries after its composition, the
Declaration of Independence, just as Jefferson predicted on its fiftieth
anniversary in his letter to Roger C. Weightman, towers aloft as "the signal
of arousing men to burst the chains...to assume the blessings and security of
self-government" and to restore "the free right to the unbounded exercise of
reason and freedom of opinion."
                             Declaration text                             
     hen 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 refuted 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 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 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 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 benefit 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 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.
--John Hancock
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
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, George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
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
     
                      The declaration of Independence (USA)