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


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


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


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


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.



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