DECLARATION OF THE CAUSES AND NECESSITY OF TAKING UP ARMS

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.

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

BACKGROUND:

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
   "Congress"."
                                                                               

In any case, above is the complete text of that document
published almost exactly a year before the Declaration
of Independence.

 

 
Prepared by Gerald Murphy (The Cleveland Free-Net - aa300)
Distributed by the Cybercasting Services Division of the
  National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN).
Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise
  redistribute this file, provided appropriate point of origin
  credit is given to the preparer(s) and the National Public
  Telecomputing Network.