Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776


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

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 the 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 the
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

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 Rules 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

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 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 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 STATED 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.