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Declaration of Independence Annotations
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.  Referring to both political and religious positions for independencePeople have the right to declare independence from their government/ruler under special circumstances.
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. –  “All men are created equal” does not include all men, because slavery persisted throughout and after the Revolution.These rights give the colonists the right to declare independence. King George III and Parliament oppressed the colonists with taxes, debts and religious impositions, such as an undesired Anglican bishop. The colonists believed these acts violated their basic human rights, given to them by God.
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. Governments derive their power from the people, the people do not derive their rights from the government.The people’s rights give them the power and ability to eliminate and recreate their government.
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. Changing government is not done lightly. People have a tendency to abhor change. If the good from the changes outweighs the bad, then a new government should be created.from Britain: King George III and Parliamentusurpations: illegally taking power by forceobject: states/coloniesIt is the people’s duty to provide a secure 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 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. Times require the colonies to alter their government.King George III has become tyrannical and abusive of his power over the colonies.In all of the following grievances, “He” refers to King George III.
 He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.  He does not follow dictated laws.
 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 uses his power for his own personal gain.
 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 passes laws for a people who have no representation in government.
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 uses his power to force people into submission.
 He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of people.  He has dismantled the colonies’ self-government.
 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.  When governing officials’ terms end, the colonies are left vulnerable militarily, morally, etc. until a new official is placed in office.
 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 made immigration to the colonies very difficult, almost illegal.
 He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has inhibited judicial power in the colonies.
 He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. The judges work for him and perform his will, or else they lose their jobs.
 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 sent to the colonies unwanted and unneeded officials, such as a Royal Governor in Massachusetts.
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 stationed British armies among the colonists in peace time, and those soldiers believe they are above colonial law.
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: He has implemented laws that do not correspond to our previously established laws. They are as such …
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: He requires citizens of the colonies to house troops against their wills.Soldiers cannot do any wrong, and any illegal acts are protected by the King.
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He imposes taxation without representation.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses  He requires colonial “criminals” to travel to Britain to be tried for their offenses rather than trying them in the colonies among a jury of peers.
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: He instituted undesired governments, officials and territory boundaries.
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. The colonists no longer have control over their territories and laws. King George III has changed the structures of their governments (including implementation of royal governors)He has altered colonial governments, and now the colonists have no control over them.
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 has given up his claim to government in the colonies, claiming that the colonies are no longer to be protected as a British entity.He has destroyed everything in the colonies, especially in New England (Boston Massacre, stealing weaponry, imposition of unfair taxes, etc.)
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 is currently sending a more forceful means of imposing his power, now that our laws are all but meaningless to him, and this display makes him unfit to rule any 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 imprisoned our sailors and forced them to join the British navy.
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. He has mercilessly recruited the “savages” (Native Americans) to fight against the colonists in this war.
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. The colonists have pleaded their case to King George III multiple times, but to no avail. The colonists were ignored, and so therefore King George III is not with the colonists, but against them.
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.  The colonists had reached out to the citizens still in England to help them, but they too ignored the colonists’ pleas for help.
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 out to be totally dissolved;  This is the first time that the colonists referred to the colonies as the “United States of America”.The colonists are officially declaring to King George III that they are a free state and are no longer under the jurisdiction of Great Britain.
and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and 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.  As a free state, the colonists declare that they have all of the powers and rights of a independent state such as declaring war. The colonists no longer look to Great Britain or King George as country and ruler.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:


Column 1Georgia:Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton


Column 2

North Carolina:

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton


Column 3


John Hancock


Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton


George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

















Column 4Pennsylvania:Robert MorrisBenjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross


Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean


Column 5

New York:

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark


Column 6

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple


Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery


Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:

Matthew Thornton


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