Thomas Jefferson’s Draft
The Final Text
The List of Grievances
Impact on American History
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE TEXT:
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 affect 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 is 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 is 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 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 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 complete 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 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 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 the 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 the 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 Declaration of Independence is the methodological blueprint for the operation of a democratic, sovereign nation. Penned by Thomas Jefferson, who was aided by fellow patriots and political ideologists John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, the Declaration of Independence not only secure the sovereignty of the United States of America but also formulates the first democratic gubernatorial model.
Pursuant to their Revolutionary War victory in 1776, the newly-autonomous United States was eager to solidify a diplomatic presence, and as a result, the Continental Congress of the United States, the acting governing body at the time, requested that doctrine be created illustrating the tenets of the new regime.
In his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson not only cited various transgressions committed by the British monarchy under King George III against the colonists prior to the Revolutionary War but also borrowed elements of political theory written by John Locke – a colleague of Jefferson’s, as well as a prominent political philosopher.
According to John Locke, the foundation of an ideal governmental body was rooted in its determination to protect the interests of its citizens. In contrast to a monarchy, which is a totalitarian ruling body that possesses absolute power, a democratic central government is a conglomerate, symbiotic entity. It is comprised of various branches that only function in tandem with one another. As a result, no branch can operate as a single unit, and therefore, no decision on a national scale can be made by a single governing body.
In addition, Locke maintained that the innate rights of the citizens were of the utmost importance in any functional democratic central government. Rather than serve its own interest, an ideal central government would dedicate itself to protecting what he deemed the ‘inalienable’ rights of every citizen of that nation.
The ingenuity attributed to the Declaration of Independence is considered to be its penchant for humanism. Prior to the creation of the Declaration of Independence, world powers ruled their citizens with absolute power, employing kings, queens, monarchs, and emperors. Boundaries between the royalty and the commoners were established and any decision or action that stood to benefit the totalitarian ruling body was assumed to benefit every citizen of that nation.
The authors of the Declaration of Independence maintained that the collective interests of subjects living under a monarchy – Thomas Jefferson cited British monarch King George III as an example in the text of the Declaration – were only considered secondary to those interests of the monarch, if they were even to be considered at all. The Declaration of Independence allowed the citizens of the United States to overthrow a government whom they perceived no longer served the interests of the people – a radical, yet revolutionary contrast unheard of at the time.
The Declaration of Independence illustrated the innate humanism of its authors. Not only was the central Government considered to be an entity of public service, but the Declaration of Independence advocated for the fair and just treatment of the remaining British Loyalists still residing in the United States. The declaration not only demanded that all British prisoners be released and allowed to return to England, but also required the return of any and all Loyalist property seized in an unjust manner subsequent to the end of the Revolutionary War.