An open letter to the King of Great Britain
Posted July 4, 1776 by John Hancock
Our Congress here in the thirteen united States of America are declaring today that we are separating political ties with you. We believe that it’s only fair that we tell you why.
First of all, there are a few rights that we believe are plainly obvious:
- All men are created equal
- God has given us rights that can’t be taken away by man: life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.
Although God gives these rights, man creates Government to secure these rights. If a Government isn’t protecting these rights then it is the right of the people to make changes to the Government — or make a new one. This new Government should be organized and based on these principles to ensure Safety and Happiness.
Making changes to long established Government isn’t to be taken lightly. We know the risks and that things may get worse for the people. However, when these rights are taken away and abused under a single authority, it is the people’s right and duty to rid themselves of that authority and defend themselves.
We, the Thirteen Colonies, have been patient under your governance, dear King, but it’s time to alter our relationship. You have a history of causing us harm and interfering with our God-given rights. We’ve endured long enough. Your tyranny over us is over.
Dear world, below is a list of facts that you need to understand about this King:
- He has refused to uphold agreements.
- He has forbidden Governors to pass important and timely laws and he utterly neglects his review of the proposed laws.
- He has refused to allow representation for large districts of people — obviously a position an insecure tyrant would take.
- He has called meetings in unusual and uncomfortable places far away from the places we keep the public records in an attempt to tire us out and comply with him.
- He has dissolved some of our Houses of Representation when we oppose his tyranny.
- He has fixed our elections to keep our States in poor official leadership.
- He has made it difficult for Internationals to settle in our states.
- He has not allowed us to enforce our laws without his meddling.
- He has made our judges totally dependent on him for their salary and tenure.
- He has sent his officers here to harass and pillage our people — and created new offices to facilitate it.
- He has kept his armies on patrol in our neighborhoods even during times of peace.
- He has tried to make the military superior to our civil power.
- He has ignored our own laws.
- He has split up armed troops among us.
- He has performed mock murder trials for his people here.
- He has cut off our trade with parts of the world.
- He has imposed taxes on us without our consent.
- He has denied us a fair trial by jury on several occasions.
- He has taken us overseas to be tried for made-up offenses.
- He has helped a neighboring Province grow and strengthen itself to become a threat to our states.
- He has cut our legal foundations out from under us by taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering our fundamental governmental system.
- He has suspended our Legislatures and given his men that power to rule us.
- He has waged war against us.
- He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
- He has (and is) sending foreign mercenary armies to continually barrage our homes.
- He has captured our citizens at sea and forced them to join his army against us.
- He has caused insurrections among our people and has encouraged native savages to attack us.
Throughout this repeated oppression we have humbly requested relief from the king but he has returned our requests with injury. This Tyrant is unworthy to be a ruler of free people.
Our trouble isn’t just with the king but also with our British brothers. They are well aware of the oppression and unfair acts against us. We’ve reminded them of why we came here in the first place. We’ve made appeals to their good conscious to disassociate themselves with the Crown’s tyranny. But because they chose to ignore our warnings, we must treat them as we treat the rest of the world: in war they are enemies, in peace they are friends.
Therefore, we the Representatives of the good people of these united States of America, have come together before God and the world to declare that these Colonies have the right to be free and independent states. We declare ourselves free of the rule of the British crown and all political connection to Great Britain. As free and independent states it is our right to align with whomever we wish, establish commerce, wage war and bring peace.
We rely on God’s protection and we pledge to each other our lives, fortunes, and honor.
Signed from New Hampshire:
~ Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Signed from Massachusetts:
~ John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Signed from Rhode Island:
~ Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Signed from Connecticut:
~ Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
Signed from New York:
~ William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
Signed from New Jersey:
~ Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Signed from Pennsylvania:
~ Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Signed from Delaware:
~ Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Signed from Maryland:
~ Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Signed from Virginia:
~ George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
Signed from North Carolina:
~ William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
Signed from South Carolina:
~ Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Signed from Georgia:
~ Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton