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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 inalienable 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 a 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 à 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 whole-ome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of imn.ediate 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 repository 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 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 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 constitutions, 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 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 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 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 connexion 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
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the recitude 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 connexion 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 foregoing declaration was, by order of Congress, engrossed, and signed by the following members :
CHARLES CARROLL, of Carrollton.
RICHARD HENRY LEE,
THOMAS NELSON, JR.
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE,
AND PERPETUAL UNION,
Between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and
Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Style of Confederacy.
Expenses of Government to be defrayed by a land tax, to be laid and levied by the States.
Powers of Congress; war; peace; treaties; prohibi.
tions; powers of States not to be abridged; State
courts. Mode of appealing to Congress, in differences be
tween States; mode of adjudication; controver. sies concerning private rights; coin; weights and measures; trade; Indian affairs; post offices; appointment of officers of army and navy; rules for army and navy; committee of the States; its du
ties and powers. Power of United States to engage in war, &c., regu
lated; adjournment of Congress; publication of its proceedings.
Rights of citizenship; privileges of trade; duties
and restrictions; fugitives from justice; credit to acts of States.
Delegates in Congress; their number; term; how
paid; manner of voting; freedom of speech; privileges of members.
Power of the committee of States in recess of Con
Admission of Canada.
States may not make treaties; officers not to accept
of presents; titles of nobility not to be granted; States not to make treaties with each other with out consent of Congress ; States not to levy duties in contravention of treaties; States not to keep ships or armies without consent of Congress; shall organize militia, keep arms, &c. ; shall not engage in war, unless invaded; nor grant commissions, except in time of war, unless to suppress piracy.
Existing debts assumed.
States to abide by acts of Confederation; union
perpetual; alterations ; ratification.
When forces raised by a State, what officers to be
commissioned by state.
ARTICLE I. The style of this confederacy shall be, “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."
Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.
The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare; binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade or any other pretence whatever.
The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, (paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted,) shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions, as the inhabitants thereof respectively: Provided, That such restriction shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State to any other State of which the owner is an inhabitant : Provided also, that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any person, guilty of or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor, in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor, or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offence.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.
For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed, in such manner as the Legislature of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the
year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the year.
No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years ; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, sees, or emoluments of
kind. Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.
In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.