Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE ROUGH DRAFT ( as it probably read when Jefferson first submitted it to Franklin .) 1 - The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas
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THE ROUGH DRAFT ( as it probably read when Jefferson first submitted it to Franklin .) 1 - Carl Lotus Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas 
The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922).
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THE ROUGH DRAFT
A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress Assembled.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and toadvance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equalequal & independent station to which the laws of nature & 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 separationthe change.
We hold these truths to be self-evident;1 that all men are created equal & independent; that from that equal creation they derive in rights inherent & inalienable,2 among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes:1 and accordingly all experience hath shewn 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 & usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to subject reduce them to arbitrary power, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government & to provide new guards for their future security. such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. the history of his present majesty is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which no one fact stands single or solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of which have in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. to prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied2 by falsehood.
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 immediate1 & pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has neglected utterly to attend to them.
he has refused to pass other laws for the accomodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them & formidable to tyrants only:
he has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly & continually, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people:
he has dissolved, he has refused for a long space of time 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, & 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 migrations hither; & raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands:
he has suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these colonies, refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers:
he has made our judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and amount of their salaries:
he has erected a multitude of new offices by a self-assumed power, & sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people & eat out their substance:
he has kept among us in times of peace standing armies & ships of war:
he has affected to render the military, independent of & superior to the civil power:
he has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions1 and unacknoleged by our laws; giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation, for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
for protecting them by a 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 of the benefits of trial by jury;
for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses;
for taking away our charters, & altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;
for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:
he has abdicated government here, withdrawing his governors, & declaring us out of his allegiance & protection:
he has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns & destroyed the lives of our people:
he is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation & tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:
he has endeavored 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, & conditions of existence:
he has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow citizens, with the allurements1 of forfeiture & confiscation of our property:
he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights2 of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. [determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold,] he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold:3 : and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
in every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered by repeated injury.1 a prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free. future ages will scarce believe that the hardiness of one man, adventured within the short compass of twelve years only, on so many acts of tyranny without a mask, over a people fostered & fixed in principles2 of liberty.
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 a jurisdiction over these our states. we have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration & settlement here, no one of which could warrant so strange a pretension: that these were effected at the expence of our own blood & treasure, unassisted by the wealth or the strength of Great Britain: that in constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted one common king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league & amity with them: but that submission to their parliament was no part of our constitution, nor ever in idea, if history may be credited: and we appealed to their native justice & magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which were likely to interrupt our correspondence & connection. they too have been deaf to the voice of justice & of consanguinity, & when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free election re-established them in power. at this very time too they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to invade & deluge us in blood. these facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. we must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and to hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. we might have been a free & a great people together; but a communication of grandeur & of freedom it seems is below their dignity. be it so, since they will have it: the road to glory & happiness & to glory is open to us too; we will climb it apart from them, in a separately state, and acquiesce in the necessity which depronounces our everlasting Adieu! eternal separation!
We therefore the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled do, in the name & by authority1 of the good people of these states, reject and renounce all allegiance & subjection to the kings of Great Britain & all others who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; we utterly dissolve and break off all political connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us & the people or parliament of Great Britain; and finally we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independent states, and that as free & independent states they shall hereafter have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, & to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, & our sacred honour.
Such, substantially, must have been the form of the Rough Draft when Jefferson first submitted it to Franklin. Between that day, whenever it was, and the 28 of June when the report of the Committee of Five was presented to Congress (it will presently appear how the report of the Committee can be approximately reconstructed), a total of twenty-six alterations were made in the Rough Draft. Twenty-three of these were changes in phraseology — two in Adams’ hand, five in Franklin’s, and sixteen apparently in Jefferson’s. Besides these verbal changes, three entirely new paragraphs were added. If this be true, what are we to make of Jefferson’s account of the matter in his letter to Madison? In this letter, quoted above, Jefferson says that having prepared the Draft he submitted it to “Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections;. . . their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.” Jefferson here asserts that no changes were made in the Committee, and he implies that none except those in the handwriting of Franklin and Adams were made before the ‘fair copy’ was presented to the Committee. Either in the assertion or in the implication Jefferson’s statement must be inaccurate.
Jefferson was probably right in the assertion that no changes were made in the Committee. He tells us that he submitted the Draft to Franklin and Adams first because they were the men whose corrections he most wished to have the benefit of. Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams were themselves a majority of the Committee; and if the draft was satisfactory to them it is quite likely that it would pass the Committee without change. Besides, there is no evidence to contradict Jefferson’s statement on this point. What I suppose then is that the twenty-six alterations were all made before the ‘fair copy’ (or the Rough Draft, if Jefferson was mistaken in thinking there was a ‘fair copy’) was submitted to the Committee, and that these changes were the result of at least two, perhaps more, consultations between Jefferson and Franklin, and between Jefferson and Adams. Jefferson must have submitted the Draft to both Franklin and Adams at least twice, because the copy which Adams took contains only two of the five corrections which Franklin wrote into the Draft, and only one of the two which Adams himself wrote in. It was after Adams made his copy that he wrote in the second of his own corrections, that Franklin wrote in three of his corrections, and that Jefferson wrote in the three new paragraphs and sixteen verbal changes. Now there is nothing to show whether the corrections in Jefferson’s hand were made before or after the later corrections by Franklin and Adams. I think we may assume that Jefferson, having written in three new paragraphs and sixteen verbal changes, would scarcely venture to make a ‘fair copy’ for the Committee, or, if there was no fair copy, would he be likely to present the Rough Draft thus corrected to the Committee, without having first submitted the Draft thus amended to Franklin and Adams for their final approval. Is it not then likely that it was on the occasion of this final submission of the corrected Draft to Franklin and Adams that they wrote in the corrections which appear in their hands but are not in the copy which Adams made?
The order of events in correcting the Rough Draft cannot in most respects be known; but I should guess that it was somewhat as follows. Having prepared the Draft, in which were eight slight verbal corrections made in process of composition, Jefferson first submitted it to Franklin. Franklin then wrote in one, and probably two, of the five corrections that appear in his hand. Where the Draft read, “and amount of their salaries,” Franklin changed it to read, “and the amount & payment of their salaries.” A second correction by Franklin was probably made at this time also. Jefferson originally wrote “reduce them to arbitrary power.” Franklin’s correction reads “reduce them under absolute Despotism.” But Adams’ copy reads “reduce them under absolute power,” which is neither the original nor the corrected reading, but a combination of both. Adams may of course have made a mistake in copying (he made a number of slight errors in copying); or it may be that at this time Franklin wrote in “under absolute” in place of “to arbitrary,” and that not until later, after Adams made his copy, was “power” crossed out and “Despotism” written in. In the original manuscript, “Despotism” appears to have been written with a different pen, or with heavier ink, than “under Absolute,” as if written at a different time. At all events, not more than two of Franklin’s five corrections had been made when Jefferson submitted the Draft to Adams. Adams then wrote in one of his two corrections: where Jefferson had written “for a long space of time,” Adams added “after such dissolutions.” Having made this correction, Adams made his copy of the Draft as it then read, and, we may suppose, returned the Draft to Jefferson.
After receiving the Draft from Adams, Jefferson wrote in, at least the greater part of the sixteen verbal changes, and three new paragraphs. The verbal changes he probably made on his own initiative; they were mere improvements in phraseology, such as would be likely to occur to him upon rereading. He may like wise have added the three new paragraphs on his own initiative; but I think it extremely likely that Adams suggested the addition of the paragraph about calling legislative bodies at places remote from their public records. This had actually occurred in Massachusetts, and who more likely than Adams to remember it, or to wish to have it included in the list of grievances? This at least we know, that Jefferson wrote out on a slip of paper the following paragraph:
he has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, & distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
The slip was then pasted at one end to the Rough Draft at the place where occurs the paragraph beginning, “he has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly and continually.”1 The two other paragraphs which Jefferson added after Adams returned the Draft are the one beginning, “for abolishing the free system of English laws,”2 and the one beginning, “he has constrained others taken captives on the high seas.”3
In whatever order these changes were made, and whether after only one or after several conferences with Franklin or Adams, it may I think be assumed that Jefferson would submit the Rough Draft, after these changes were incorporated, to Franklin and Adams for their final approval before presenting the ‘fair copy’ (or the Rough Draft, if it was the Rough Draft) to the Committee. Now it may well have been at the time of this last inspection, after all other changes had been made, that Adams wrote in the second, and Franklin the last three of the corrections that appear in their handwriting. If this was in fact the order of events, it is not difficult to understand that Jefferson should have recalled the affair as he related it to Madison in 1823: “their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the Committee, & from them, unaltered to the Congress.”
So far we have assumed that the three new paragraphs and the sixteen verbal changes in Jefferson’s hand were written into the Rough Draft before it was submitted to the Committee of Five. But how do we know this, since Jefferson’s ‘fair copy’ has not been preserved? How do we know these changes were not made by Congress? Fortunately, it is possible to reconstruct the report of the Committee of Five substantially as it must have read. We have a copy of the Declaration which Jefferson made and sent to Richard H. Lee on the 8 of July, 1776, and which, in a letter to Lee of that date, he says is the Declaration “as originally framed.”1 This copy, now possessed by the American Philosophical Society, and printed in facsimile in the Proceedings of the society,2 is quite obviously not the Declaration ‘as originally framed’ — that is, as Jefferson framed it before submitting it to Franklin and Adams for the first time — because it differs strikingly from the copy which Adams made. It was probably made from the Rough Draft at about the time that the Committee of Five submitted its report to Congress; and if that report was made, as Jefferson says, in the form of a ‘fair copy,’ it is safe to assume that it was intended to be a duplicate of the fair copy.3 What Jefferson meant by the phrase “as originally framed” was “as originally reported.” This is confirmed by the fact that Jefferson described another copy of the Declaration, and practically identical with the Lee copy, by saying that it is the Declaration “as originally reported.” This latter copy is the one which he wrote into his “Notes,” later printed as part of his Autobiography.1 Finally, during the debates in Congress or afterward, Jefferson indicated on the Rough Draft the changes made by Congress by bracketing the parts omitted. Thus the Lee copy, the copy in Jefferson’s “Notes,” and the Rough Draft exclusive of the corrections made in connection with the bracketed parts, furnish us with three texts which were intended to conform to the report of the Committee of Five. The most reliable of these texts is probably the Lee copy. The text given below is made by reproducing the Rough Draft exclusive of all corrections that do not appear in the Lee copy; that is, it is the Rough Draft as it must have read when Jefferson made the Lee copy, assuming that he made the Lee copy from the Rough Draft, and made no errors in copying. If Jefferson made a ‘fair copy’ for the Committee, he may of course have made the Lee copy from that fair copy instead of from the Rough Draft. In either case it can hardly be supposed that he made any changes deliberately; and if he made any errors (he apparently made at least one),2 they were probably slight. The corrections printed in roman are those which, being incorporated in Adams’ copy, I have assumed were made by Jefferson in the process of composition before he first submitted the Draft to Franklin. All other corrections and additions are printed in italics. Where the reading of the Lee copy differs from that of the copy in the “Notes,” excepting differences in punctuation and capitalization, I have noted the difference in footnotes.
[1 ] The text here given is identical with the Adams copy except, (1) the corrections of Franklin and Adams appearing on the Rough Draft and incorporated by Adams in his copy are omitted, (2) the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the Rough Draft have been followed, (3) in a number of instances where Adams obviously made slips in copying, the Rough Draft is followed. These slips, in each case, are indicated in the footnotes.
[1 ] It is not clear that this change was made by Jefferson. The handwriting of “self-evident” resembles Franklin’s.
[2 ] Adams’ copy reads “unalienable.” This is the reading of the Declaration as finally adopted; but as the change is not indicated on the Rough Draft, Adams must have deliberately or inadvertently made the change in copying. See below, p. 175, note 1.
[1 ] Adams’ copy reads “or transient.”
[2 ] Adams’ copy reads “as yet unsullied.”
[1 ] Adams’ copy reads “an immediate.”
[1 ] Adams’ copy reads “constitution.”
[1 ] Adams’ copy reads “allurement.”
[2 ] Adams’ copy reads “right.”
[3 ] Adams’ copy reads “an execrable.”
[1 ] The Rough Draft reads “injuries.” But it is clear that the original form was “injury.” The “y” has been erased and “ies” written in. All of the official texts read “injury,” and all of Jefferson’s own copies of the Declaration read “injury” except the one which he copied into his “Notes.” It seems that Jefferson must have made this change after the Declaration was adopted, since it is unlikely that it would have been rejected by Congress if it had been in the report of the Committee of Five.
[2 ] Adams’ copy reads “the principles.”
[1 ] Adams’ copy reads “the authority.”
[1 ] In the course of time a part of this slip was torn out and lost; but the rest of it, which is in two parts, was pasted down throughout, over, and largely concealing, the paragraph which reads: “he has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly & continually, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people:” Of this paragraph, therefore, only a few words can now be seen on the Rough Draft; and of the paragraph written on the slip, only about two thirds can be seen. At this point the Rough Draft now reads as follows:
he has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, unco t from lly] for opposing the depository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatigui nce eople: with his measures.
The word “continually,” of which only the letters “lly” can now be seen, has the bracket because it was omitted by Congress, and Jefferson bracketed on the Rough Draft those parts omitted by Congress.
[2 ] This paragraph is written in at the bottom of page 2 of the Rough Draft; there was margin enough there to insert it by writing a very small hand and crowding the lines.
[3 ] This paragraph is written in on page 3 of the Rough Draft, between the paragraph beginning, “he has incited treasonable insurrections,” and the paragraph beginning, “he has waged cruel war.” Jefferson was able to crowd the new paragraph in because he left a pretty wide space between the lines when he wrote the Rough Draft; but the new paragraph had to be written so close and small that, even apart from the fact that this paragraph does not appear in Adams’s copy, we should know it to be a later Insertion.
[1 ]Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Ford ed.), II, 59.
[2 ]Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, XXXVII, 103–106.
[3 ] Hazelton, op. cit., 306, 344.
[1 ]Ibid., 171. Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Ford ed.), I, 29.
[2 ] See Page 170, Note 1.