The Foundations Of Our Nation

                      July 6, 1775

A declaration by the representatives of the united colonies of 
North America, now met in Congress at Philadelphia, setting 
forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms.

If it was possible for men, who exercise their reason to 
believe, that the divine Author of our existence intended a 
part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an 
unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite 
goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never 
rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the 
inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the 
parliament of Great-Britain some evidence, that this dreadful 
authority over them, has been granted to that body.  But a 
reverance for our Creator, principles of humanity, and the 
dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect 
upon the subject, that government was instituted to promote 
the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the 
attainment of that end.  The legislature of Great-Britain, 
however, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not 
only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly 
reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and 
desparate of success in any mode of contest, where regard 
should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, 
deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic 
purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have 
thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last 
appeal from reason to arms.  Yet, however blinded that 
assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited 
domination, so to sight justice and the opinion of mankind, 
we esteem ourselves bound by obligations of respect to the 
rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause.
Our forefathers, inhabitants of the island of Great-Britain, 
left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence 
for civil and religious freedom.  At the expense of their 
blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least 
charge to the country from which they removed, by unceasing 
labour, and an unconquerable spirit, they effected settlements 
in the distant and unhospitable wilds of America, then filled 
with numerous and warlike barbarians. -- Societies or 
governments, vested with perfect legislatures, were formed 
under charters from the crown, and an harmonious intercourse 
was established between the colonies and the kingdom from which 
they derived their origin.  The mutual benefits of this union 
became in a short time so extraordinary, as to excite 
astonishment.  It is universally confessed, that the amazing 
increase of the wealth, strength, and navigation of the realm, 
arose from this source; and the minister, who so wisely and 
successfully directed the measures of Great-Britain in the 
late war, publicly declared, that these colonies enabled her 
to triumph over her enemies. --Towards the conclusion of that 
war, it pleased our sovereign to make a change in his counsels. 
-- From that fatal movement, the affairs of the British empire 
began to fall into confusion, and gradually sliding from the 
summit of glorious prosperity, to which they had been advanced 
by the virtues and abilities of one man, are at length 
distracted by the convulsions, that now shake it to its deepest 
foundations. -- The new ministry finding the brave foes of 
Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, took 
up the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and 
then subduing her faithful friends.

These colonies were judged to be in such a state, as to present 
victories without bloodshed, and all the easy emoluments of 
statuteable plunder. -- The uninterrupted tenor of their 
peaceable and respectful behaviour from the beginning of 
colonization, their dutiful, zealous, and useful services 
during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in 
the most honourable manner by his majesty, by the late king, 
and by parliament, could not save them from the meditated 
innovations. -- Parliament was influenced to adopt the 
pernicious project, and assuming a new power over them, have 
in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens 
of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to 
leave no doubt concerning the effects of acquiescence under 
it.  They have undertaken to give and grant our money without 
our consent, though we have ever exercised an exclusive right 
to dispose of our own property; statutes have been passed for 
extending the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty and 
vice-admiralty beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us 
of the accustomed and inestimable privilege of trial by jury, 
in cases affecting both life and property; for suspending the 
legislature of one of the colonies; for interdicting all 
commerce to the capital of another; and for altering 
fundamentally the form of government established by charter, 
and secured by acts of its own legislature solemnly confirmed 
by the crown; for exempting the "murderers" of colonists from 
legal trial, and in effect, from punishment; for erecting in 
a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of 
Great-Britain and America, a despotism dangerous to our very 
existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonists in 
time of profound peace.  It has also been resolved in 
parliament, that colonists charged with committing certain 
offences, shall be transported to England to be tried.
But why should we enumerate our injuries in detail?  By one 
statute it is declared, that parliament can "of right make laws 
to bind us in all cases whatsoever."  What is to defend us 
against so enormous, so unlimited a power?  Not a single man of 
those who assume it, is chosen by us; or is subject to our 
control or influence; but, on the contrary, they are all of them 
exempt from the operation of such laws, and an American revenue, 
if not diverted from the ostensible purposes for which it is 
raised, would actually lighten their own burdens in proportion, 
as they increase ours.  We saw the misery to which such despotism 
would reduce us.  We for ten years incessantly and ineffectually 
besieged the throne as supplicants; we reasoned, we remonstrated 
with parliament, in the most mild and decent language.

Administration sensible that we should regard these oppressive 
measures as freemen ought to do, sent over fleets and armies to 
enforce them.  The indignation of the Americans was roused, it is 
true; but it was the indignation of a virtuous, loyal, and 
affectionate people.  A Congress of delegates from the United 
Colonies was assembled at Philadelphia, on the fifth day of last 
September.  We resolved again to offer an humble and dutiful 
petition to the King, and also addressed our fellow-subjects of 
Great-Britain.  We have pursued every temperate, every respectful 
measure; we have even proceeded to break off our commercial 
intercourse with our fellow-subjects, as the last peaceable 
admonition, that our attachment to no nation upon earth should 
supplant our attachment to liberty. -- This, we flattered 
ourselves, was the ultimate step of the controversy: but 
subsequent events have shewn, how vain was this hope of finding 
moderation in our enemies.

Several threatening expressions against the colonies were 
inserted in his majesty's speech; our petition, tho' we were 
told it was a decent one, and that his majesty had been pleased 
to receive it graciously, and to promise laying it before his 
parliament, was huddled into both houses among a bundle of 
American papers, and there neglected.  The lords and commons in 
their address, in the month of February, said, that "a rebellion 
at that time actually existed within the province of Massachusetts-
Bay; and that those concerned with it, had been countenanced and 
encouraged by unlawful combinations and engagements, entered into 
by his majesty's subjects in several of the other colonies; and 
therefore they besought his majesty, that he would take the most 
effectual measures to inforce due obediance to the laws and 
authority of the supreme legislature." -- Soon after, the 
commercial intercourse of whole colonies, with foreign countries, 
and with each other, was cut off by an act of parliament; by 
another several of them were intirely prohibited from the 
fisheries in the seas near their coasts, on which they always 
depended for their sustenance; and large reinforcements of ships 
and troops were immediately sent over to general Gage.

Fruitless were all the entreaties, arguments, and eloquence of an 
illustrious band of the most distinguished peers, and commoners, 
who nobly and strenuously asserted the justice of our cause, to 
stay, or even to mitigate the heedless fury with which these 
accumulated and unexampled outrages were hurried on. -- equally 
fruitless was the interference of the city of London, of Bristol, 
and many other respectable towns in our favor.  Parliament 
adopted an insidious manoeuvre calculated to divide us, to 
establish a perpetual auction of taxations where colony should 
bid against colony, all of them uninformed what ransom would 
redeem their lives; and thus to extort from us, at the point of 
the bayonet, the unknown sums that should be sufficient to 
gratify, if possible to gratify, ministerial rapacity, with the 
miserable indulgence left to us of raising, in our own mode, the 
prescribed tribute.  What terms more rigid and humiliating could 
have been dictated by remorseless victors to conquered enemies? 
in our circumstances to accept them, would be to deserve them.

Soon after the intelligence of these proceedings arrived on this 
continent, general Gage, who in the course of the last year had 
taken possession of the town of Boston, in the province of 
Massachusetts-Bay, and still occupied it a garrison, on the 19th 
day of April, sent out from that place a large detachment of his 
army, who made an unprovoked assault on the inhabitants of the 
said province, at the town of Lexington, as appears by the 
affidavits of a great number of persons, some of whom were 
officers and soldiers of that detachment, murdered eight of the 
inhabitants, and wounded many others.  From thence the troops 
proceeded in warlike array to the town of Concord, where they set 
upon another party of the inhabitants of the same province, 
killing several and wounding more, until compelled to retreat by 
the country people suddenly assembled to repel this cruel 
aggression.  Hostilities, thus commenced by the British troops, 
have been since prosecuted by them without regard to faith or 
reputation. -- The inhabitants of Boston being confined within 
that town by the general their governor, and having, in order to 
procure their dismission, entered into a treaty with him, it was 
stipulated that the said inhabitants having deposited their arms 
with their own magistrate, should have liberty to depart, taking 
with them their other effects.  They accordingly delivered up 
their arms, but in open violation of honour, in defiance of the 
obligation of treaties, which even savage nations esteemed 
sacred, the governor ordered the arms deposited as aforesaid, 
that they might be preserved for their owners, to be seized by a 
body of soldiers; detained the greatest part of the inhabitants 
in the town, and compelled the few who were permitted to retire, 
to leave their most valuable effects behind.

By this perfidy wives are separated from their husbands, children 
from their parents, the aged and the sick from their relations 
and friends, who wish to attend and comfort them; and those who 
have been used to live in plenty and even elegance, are reduced 
to deplorable distress.

The general, further emulating his ministerial masters, by a 
proclamation bearing date on the 12th day of June, after venting 
the grossest falsehoods and calumnies against the good people of 
these colonies, proceeds to  "declare them all, either by name or 
description, to be rebels and traitors, to supercede the course 
of the common law, and instead thereof to publish and order the 
use and exercise of the law martial." -- His troops have 
butchered our countrymen, have wantonly burnt Charlestown, 
besides a considerable number of houses in other places; our 
ships and vessels are seized; the necessary supplies of 
provisions are intercepted, and he is exerting his utmost power 
to spread destruction and devastation around him.

We have rceived certain intelligence, that general Carleton, the 
governor of Canada, is instigating the people of that province 
and the Indians to fall upon us; and we have but too much reason 
to apprehend, that schemes have been formed to excite domestic 
enemies against us.  In brief, a part of these colonies now feel, 
and all of them are sure of feeling, as far as the vengeance of 
administration can inflict them, the complicated calamities of 
fire, sword and famine.  [1] We are reduced to the alternative of 
chusing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated 
ministers, or resistance by force. -- The latter is our choice. 
-- We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so 
dreadful as voluntary slavery. -- Honour, justice, and humanity, 
forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received 
from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have 
a right to receive from us.  We cannot endure the infamy and 
guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness 
which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary 
bondage upon them.

Our cause is just.  Our union is perfect.  Our internal resources 
are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly 
attainable. -- We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of 
the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not 
permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we 
were grown up to our present strength, had been previously 
exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of 
defending ourselves.  With hearts fortified with these animating 
reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, 
that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our 
beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we 
have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in 
defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and 
perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being 
with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.

Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends 
and fellow-subjects in any part of the empire, we assure them 
that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so 
happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see 
restored. -- Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate 
measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against 
them. -- We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of 
separating from Great-Britain, and establishing independent 
states.  We fight not for glory or for conquest.  We exhibit to 
mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by 
unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of 
offence.  They boast of their privileges and civilization, and 
yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our 
birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of 
it -- for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the 
honest industry of our fore-fathers and ourselves, against 
violence actually offered, we have taken up arms.  We shall lay 
them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the 
aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be 
removed, and not before.

With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and 
impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly 
implore his divine goodness to protect us happily through this 
great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on 
reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the 
calamities of civil war.

[1] From this point onwards thought to be the work of Jefferson.
[2] Journal of Congress, edited 1800, I, pp 134-139


The Second Continental Congress was remarkable for several 
things, not the least of which was selecting George Washington 
as the Commander In Chief of the Continental Army being created 
to fight the British Army assembled at Boston.  You will recall 
that the "Boston Massacre" and events at Lexington, Concord, and 
Breeds Hill (next to Bunker Hill) had only recently stirred up 
the fighting in the northeastern colonies.  Once the business 
of creating an army was taken care of, it was deemed necessary 
to inform the world of the reasons why the colonies had taken 
up arms.  The first attempt at drafting such a declaration was 
by Thomas Jefferson, but was ruled far too militant.  A second 
attempt was made by Colonel John Dickinson, known for earlier 
pamphlets in which he called himself "The Farmer".  The final 
result was apparently a combination of both writers.

Strange that Dickinson should create such a document; he was 
under considerable pressure from both his wife and mother, both 
Tory sympathizers, and he was no great fan of the New England 
representatives to the Congress.  An incident related in _A New 
Age Now Begins_, written by Page Smith, marks him as an even 
more unlikely choice for the writer of such a declaration:

  "Dickinson once more had his way when Congress approved 
   still another petition to the king.  Dickinson was 
   delighted when it passed and rose to express his pleasure.
   There was only one word to which he objected since it 
   might possibly offend His Majesty, and that was the word 
   'Congress'.  Whereupon Benjamin Harrison of Virginia  
   promptly rose and, inclining his head to John Hancock, 
   declared, 'There is but one word in the paper, Mr. 
   President, of which I approve, and that is the word 
In any case, above is the complete text of that document 
published almost exactly a year before the Declaration 
of Independence.

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