Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE ROUGH DRAFT as it probably read when Jefferson made the 'fair copy' which was presented to Congress as the report of the Committee of Five . - 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 made the ‘fair copy’ which was presented to Congress as the report of the Committee of Five . - 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 aone people to dissolve the political hands which have connected them with another, and towhich 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; sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent; that they are endowed by their creator with equal rights, some of which arefrom that equal creation they derive in rights inherent & inalienable rights; that among whichtheseare the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rightsends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall becomes 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: 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*under absolute Despotismto 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*the present king of Great Britainmajesty is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which appears no solitary factno one fact stands single or solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of whichbut all 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 unsullied 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 immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has neglected utterly1 to6 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 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:
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:*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 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 statescolonies, 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†the amount and payment 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 without our consent standing armies & ships of war without the our consent. of our legislatures:
he has effected 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 constitutions and unacknoleged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended acts 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 abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging it’s boundaries so as to render it at once an example fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies states;
for taking away our charters,*abolishing our most valuable important laws & 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 incited1 treasonable insurrections of our fellow-citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation of our property:
he has constrained others2taken captives falling into his hands, on the high seas to bear arms against their country & to destroy & be destroyed by the brethren whom they love, to become the executioners of their friends brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights 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 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*only 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, to build lay a foundation1so broad undisguised for tyrannyon so many acts of tyranny without a mask, over a people fostered & fixed in principles of liberty.freedom.
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 connection 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 &*destroy usdeluge 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 them1 and acquiesce in the necessity which deprnounces our everlasting adieu!eternal separation!
We therefore the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled do, in the name & by authority 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 & break off all political connection which may have heretofore have subsisted between us & the people or parliament of Great Britain; and finally we do assert and declare1 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.
The report of the Committee of Five, presented to Congress on June 28, was taken up four days later, debated on three successive days, and finally adopted with a number of amendments on the 4 of July. Since Congress sat, for these debates, in committee of the whole, the Journals give no account of either the debates or the amendments. Jefferson recorded, in his “Notes” taken at the time, a few details. In the “Notes” he says:
The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.1
In a letter to Robert Walsh, December 4, 1818, Jefferson wrote as follows:
The words ’scotch and other foreign auxillaries’ excited the ire of a gentleman or two of that country. Severe strictures on the British king, in negativing our repeated repeals of the law which permitted the importation of slaves, were disapproved by some Southern gentlemen, whose reflections were not yet matured to the full abhorrence of that traffic. Although the offensive expressions were immediately yielded, these gentlemen continued their depredations on other parts of the instrument.2
The Journal of Congress gives only the form of the Declaration as finally adopted. In what is called the ‘rough Journal’ the entry for July 4 is as follows:
Mr. Harrison reported that the Committee of the Whole Congress have agreed to a Declaration which he delivered in. The Declaration being read was agreed to as follows.3
What follows in the ‘rough Journal’ is a printed copy of the Declaration — a copy printed by Dunlap by order of Congress and under the supervision of the Committee of Five. In what is known as the ‘corrected Journal’ the Declaration is written in.1 The copy in the corrected Journal should, one would suppose, be the more authoritative text. Such seems, however, not to be the case. Apart from differences in punctuation and capitalization, in which the corrected Journal follows more closely the practice of Jefferson, the only differences in the two texts are the following: where the rough Journal reads, “for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us,” the corrected Journal reads, “for quartering large bodies of troops among us”; and where the rough Journal reads, “they too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity,” the corrected Journal reads, “they too have been deaf to the voice of justice & consanguinity.” The reading of the rough Journal in these two cases is the same as that of every other text we have, including the engrossed parchment copy. It seems clear, therefore, that these changes in the corrected Journal were not ‘corrections’ but simply inadvertent omissions. The copy in the rough Journal should thus be taken as the most authoritative text. If then, as I have assumed, the copy which Jefferson sent to Richard H. Lee is the nearest we can come to the ‘fair copy’ which was the report of the Committee of Five, a comparison of the Lee copy with the copy in the rough Journal will give us the changes made by Congress as accurately as it is possible to determine them. The text given below is the Lee copy, except for one reading in the last paragraph where Jefferson probably made an error in copying, with the parts omitted by Congress crossed out and the parts added interlined in italics.
[* ] Dr. Franklin’s handwriting
[* ] Mr. Adams’ handwriting
[1 ] The Rough Draft reads, “he has utterly neglected utterly.” The copy in the “Notes” reads “utterly neglected.” My belief is that this was one of the corrections made by Congress which Jefferson neglected to indicate as he commonly did such corrections, by bracketing the omitted word.
[* ] Mr. Adams
[† ] Dr. Franklin
[* ] Dr. Franklin
[1 ] The copy in the “Notes” reads “excited.”
[2 ] The copy in the “Notes” reads “our fellow citizens” in place of “others.” This is the reading of the text as adopted by Congress; but as the change does not appear on the Rough Draft, I have assumed that this was a change made by Congress. The paragraph is written in the Rough Draft as here shown, following the paragraph beginning, “he has incited.” Congress changed the order, placing the paragraph beginning “he has constrained” immediately following the one beginning “he is at this time transporting.” The copy in the “Notes” follows the order adopted by Congress.
[* ] Dr. Franklin
[1 ] The Rough Draft reads “injuries.” See above, p. 148, note 1.
[1 ] The copy in the “Notes” reads “to lay a foundation.”
[* ] Dr. Franklin
[1 ] The Rough Draft reads, “we will climb it must tread apart from them in a separately state.
The text as adopted by Congress reads “we will climb it apart from them.” The copy in the “Notes” is the only one which gives the reading “we will tread it apart from them.” If the change from “climb” to “tread” was made before the Committee of Five submitted its report, we must suppose that Jefferson made an error in the Lee copy and that Congress changed the “tread” back to “climb.” This seems improbable. See below, pp. 199–201.
[1 ] Here I have followed the Rough Draft instead of the Lee copy. The Lee copy reads, “parliament or people. . . we do assert these colonies.” There is no indication on the Rough Draft that ‘people or parliament’ was at any time changed to ‘parliament or people,’ nor is there any indication that ‘and declare’ was at any time omitted. Furthermore, the text adopted by Congress reads “publish and declare,” which seems to indicate that the words ‘and declare’ were in the report of the Committee of Five. I assume therefore that the different reading of the Lee copy is the result of an error in copying. The copy which Jefferson incorporated in his “Notes” follows the reading of the Rough Draft; on the other hand, two other copies made by Jefferson, probably at the same time he made the Lee copy, follow the reading of the Lee copy. Cf. Hazelton, op. cit., 177, 340.
[1 ]Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Ford ed.), 1, 28.
[2 ]Ibid., X, 119–120, note.
[3 ] Hazelton, op. cit., 170, 306.