The Constitution of the Founding Fathers
The Constitution of the Founding Fathers

Table of Contents

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3

Appendix 2: Text of Declaration of Independence With Explanatory Comments

      This text and format of the Declaration of Independence follow that printed by John Dunlap on the night of July 4, 1776 and attached to the journal of the Continental Congress the next day. John Dunlap appears to have used Thomas Jefferson’s Rough Draft as modified by changes made by the Congress.

      The familiar engrossed (formally handwritten) parchment copy that was signed by the representatives from the various colonies, although dated July 4, 1776, was actually written and signed by most of the representatives about a month later. It contains a somewhat different heading and only two paragraph indentations, apparently to save space on the single sheet of parchment.

      In the text on the following pages the original spelling, sentence structure, punctuation and capitalization are used even though different from current usage.

      Explanatory subheads and some paragraph numbering are added to increase understanding. All material enclosed in brackets [] is clarifying and explanatory information.

      In come cases explanatory material in inserted inside a paragraph. Where this is done the fact that the text before and after the explanatory material are parts of the same paragraph is indicated by the absence of a paragraph indentation following the explanatory material. [p. 115]






[Introduction. The signers express belief in God-given natural law.]

      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.

[The signers express their faith that men have the inalienable right to be free as an integral part of their equal creation by God. This thought was expressed in Jefferson’s rough draft in these words: “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable . . .”]

      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—

[The purpose of government is to preserve freedom. If a government tries to destroy its people’s freedom, they have the right to change or replace it.]

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.

[While people do not change their government for light reasons, the colonists’ rejection of the British government is justified because the British King’s actions show that he is pursuing a deliberate plan to deprive the colonists of their freedom.]

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for [p. 116] 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 signers present a “bill of particulars” listing many actions of the British King to show that the colonists are amply justified in their conclusion that he is involved in an intentional design to destroy their freedom.]

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.

      [1] He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

      [2] He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance unless suspended in their Operation fill his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

      [3] 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.

      [4] 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.

      [5] He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

      [6] 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.

      [7] He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. [p. 117]

      [8] He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

      [9] He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

      [10] He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

      [11] He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our Legislatures.

      [12] He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

      [13] 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:

      [14] For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

      [15] For protecting them, by mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

      [16] For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

      [17] For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

      [18] For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

      [19] For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

      [20] 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:

      [21] For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

      [22] For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

      [23] He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. [p. 118]

      [24] He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

      [25] 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.

      [26] 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.

      [27] 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 Conditions.

      [28] 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 flee People.

[The British people have not responded to the colonists pleas for help in restraining the improper actions of their King.]

      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.

[Appealing to God for the rightness of their intentions, the signers, on behalf of the people of the colonies, dissolve the connection with Great Britain and declare the colonies to be free and independent states.]

      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 ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND [p. 119] 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.

[With firm reliance on God, the signers pledge to support this declaration with their lives, their property and their integrity before God and respect among men.]

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.

      Signed by ORDER and in BEHALF of the CONGRESS,






Josiah Bartlett

Wm. Whipple

Matthew Thornton


John Hancock

Saml. Adams

John Adams

Robt. Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry


Step. Hopkins

William Ellery


Roger Sherman

Oliver Wolcott

Wm. Williams

Saml. Huntington


Frans. Lewis

Phil. Livingston

Lewis Morris

Wm. Floyd


John Hart

Jno. Witherspoon

Richard Stockton

Abra. Clark

Fras. Hopkinson

PENNSYLVANIA Benja. Franklin John Morton James Wilson Robt. Morris Geo. Taylor Jas. Smith

Geo. Ross

Geo. Clymer Benjamin Rush


Caesar Rodney

Geo. Read

Tho. M’Kean

MARYLAND Charles Carroll

      of Carrollton Wm. Paca Samuel Chase Thos. Stone


Richard Henry Lee Th. Jefferson

Benja. Harrison George Wythe Francis Lightfoot Lee Carter Braxton

Thos. Nelson, Jr.


Joseph Hewes

John Penn

Wm. Hooper


Arthur Middleton

Thos. Heywarcl, Junr.

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Lynch, Junr.


Lyman Hall

Button Gwinnett

Geo. Walton [p. 121] [p. 122]

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