The text of the
Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is made up of five distinct
parts: the introduction; the preamble; the body, which can be
divided into two sections; and a conclusion.
The introduction states that this document will "declare" the
"causes" that have made it necessary for the American colonies to
leave the British Empire. Having stated in the introduction that
independence is unavoidable, even necessary, the preamble sets
out principles that were already recognized to be "self-evident"
by most 18th- century Englishmen, closing with the statement that
"a long train of abuses and usurpations . . . evinces a design to
reduce [a people] 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." The first section of the body
of the Declaration gives evidence of the "long train of abuses
and usurpations" heaped upon the colonists by King George III.
The second section of the body states that the colonists had
appealed in vain to their "British brethren" for a redress of
their grievances. Having stated the conditions that made
independence necessary and having shown that those conditions
existed in British North America, the Declaration concludes 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
In Congress July 4th 1776
The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of
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
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
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 [George III] 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
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
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
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither
swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their
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 protecting them by a mock Trial from punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these
- 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
- For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended
- 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
- For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases
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 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
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
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
- 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 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
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