The Final Text of the Declaration of Independence July 4 1776 < 1776-1785 < Documents < American History From Revolution To Reconstruction and beyond (2023)


The Final Text of the Declaration of Independence July 4 1776 < 1776-1785 < Documents < American History From Revolution To Reconstruction and beyond (1)On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introducedinto Congress a resolution,(adopted on July 2)which asserted that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, feeand independent States. While this resolution was being discussed,on June11 a committee,consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R.Livingston , and Roger Sherman was appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence.In his Autobiography written in 1805,Adams states that the committee of five decided upon "which the declarationwas to consist", and it then appointed Jefferson and himself to form asubcommittee to really write them down. Now Jefferson and Adams have twocompletely different versions of what happened then. Adams says:

Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught, I said I will not; You shall doit. Oh no! Why will you not? You ought to do it. I will not. Why? Reasonsenough. What can be your reasons? Reason 1st. You are a Virginian and aVirginian ough to appear at the head of this business. Reason 2nd. I amobnoxious, suspected and unpopular; you are very much otherwise. Reason 3rd.You can write ten times better than I can. 'Well", said Jefferson, 'if you aredecided I will do as well as I can'. Very well, when you have drawnit up wewill have a meeting.

Jefferson's version is completely different. In a letter to Maddison of 1823he writes:

Mr. Adams memory has led him into unquestionable error. At the age of 88 and47 years after the transactions, . . . this is not wonderful. Nor should I . .. venture to oppose my memory to his, were it not supported by written notes,taken by myself at the moment and on the spot. . . The Committee of 5 met, nosuch thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed onmyself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before Ireported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin andMr. Adams requesting their corrections;. . . and you have seen the originalpaper now in my hands, with the corrections of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adamsinterlined in their own handwriting. Their alterations were two or three only,and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, andfrom them, unaltered to the Congress.
The draft was presented to Congress on June 28 andadopted by Congress on July 4,after a number of changes had been made. There are no journals on the debatesand the amendments. The most important of these were theexcision of a passage indicting the slave trade anda number of passages were reworded in a more pious form..A formal parchment copy of the Declaration, adopted in Congress 4 July 1776, was available for signing onAugust 2, and most of the 55 signatures were inscribed upon it on thatdate.The intention of the Declaration, Jefferson later wrote, was not saying some-thing new, but

to place before mankind the common sense of thesubject, interms so plain and firm as to command their assent... Neither aiming atoriginality of principles or sentiments, nor yet copied from any particularand previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the Americanmind.

Draft version of the Declaration of Independence, June 28,1776

There is still another version of the text, the so-called Lee-version. Thisis the text that Jefferson sent to Lee. This may be a better version of thedraft. See Carl L. Becker, The declaration of independence. Astudy in the history of political ideas (New York, 1922) page 174.

One of the inspirations for the American Declaration of Independence was the Plakkaat van Verlatinghe of 1581 in which the Dutch abjured the King of Spain as their sovereign.

This is the final version of the text. Some phrases are different inthe first drafts. These are indicated as a link to the first draft. There youcan read the original wording.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds 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 beself-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 to 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 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. --

Such has been the patient sufferance of thesecolonies; 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 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 suchdissolutions, 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 migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration ofjustice, 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 newoffices, 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 legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subjectus 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 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 in 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, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transportinglarge 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 insurrectionsamongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In Jefferson's draft there is a parton slavery here

In every stage of these oppressions we havepetitioned 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 ourBritish 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. 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 UnitedStates 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 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.


Attested, CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary

New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
New Jersey


What did the final version of the Declaration of Independence say? ›

Resolution of Independence

The most important and dramatic statement comes near the end: “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” It declares a complete break with Britain and its King and claims the powers of an independent country.

What is the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence? ›

This formal declaration of independence ends with important words. The words tell us what the signers of the Declaration of Independence were willing to give up for freedom: “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

What is the document that was signed on July 4 1776 What does this document say what rights do we have? ›

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule.

When was the final text of the Declaration of Independence? ›

The Final Text of the Declaration of Independence July 4 1776.

What are the main points of the Declaration of Independence? ›

The Declaration of Independence included these three major ideas: People have certain Inalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. All Men are created equal. Individuals have a civic duty to defend these rights for themselves and others.

Where are the 26 copies of the Declaration of Independence? ›

These rare documents, known as “Dunlap broadsides,” predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned.

What is a summary of the Declaration of Independence? ›

The Declaration of Independence states three basic ideas: (1) God made all men equal and gave them the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; (2) the main business of government is to protect these rights; (3) if a government tries to withhold these rights, the people are free to revolt and to set up a ...

What is the text of the Declaration of Independence? ›

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 ...

What is the last line of the Declaration of Independence preamble? ›

“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.”

What are the last lines of the Declaration of Independence? ›

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.”

What was edited out of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence? ›

What isn't widely known, however, is that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in an early version of the Declaration, drafted a 168-word passage that condemned slavery as one of the many evils foisted upon the colonies by the British crown. The passage was cut from the final wording.

Who wrote the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence? ›

Those words, written by Thomas Jefferson 241 years ago carry an immense weight in our country.

Why was slavery removed from the Declaration of Independence? ›

Those who drafted the Declaration believed that it was better to remove the section dealing with slavery than risk a long debate over the issue of slavery. They needed the support for independence from the southern states.

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