"IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and 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 separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and 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 and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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 and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and 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, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long 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 mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured 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, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made 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, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended 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 in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured 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 and conditions.

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. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Engrossed Declaration of Independence, August 2, 1776; Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  The Declaration set forth a list of grievances of the American colonies against the British Crown and declared they were breaking from British rule to form free and independent states.

On July 19, 1776, Congress resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile [sic] “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America” and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress. The engrossing was most likely done by Timothy Matlack, an assistant to Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress. Although it bears the date “July 4, 1776,” the engrossed Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, by members of the Continental Congress who were present that day and later by other members of Congress. A total of 56 delegates eventually signed the document.

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating 1,000 followers, and now here we are with over 100,000 followers after two short years! We are blown away! We love being able to share our documents and their stories with you—thanks for making that possible. We have the best followers ever! 

What has been your favorite document featured on Congress in the Archives?

Constitution 225: Tweet the Preamble Challenge Results!

In honor of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution, we challenged citizens on Twitter to capture the essence of the 52-word Preamble in just 140 characters. Here’s the winner and some of our favorite entries!

The Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero chose the winner of the “Tweet the Preamble” challenge!:

@JeanHuets: #preamble

We’re getting together to constitute a nation that’s just, peaceful, strong, prosperous and free. Are you in?

No, it’s not in the Constitution

As those dishes are cleared and the chairs pushed back from the Thanksgiving table, the conversations can touch on a lot of topics — food, football, politics, constitutional law… Need to quiet that know-it-all uncle?  Here are eight common misconceptions where the Constitution doesn’t say what he thinks it does:

  1. The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

    No. He has nothing to do with the amendments. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote of both houses, or a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. However, once the amendment is proposed either by Congress or a convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
    Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.
     
  2. The “Founding Fathers” who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are the same men who wrote the Constitution in 1787.

    Only five individuals signed both of these two founding documents. They were George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, and Roger Sherman. Some of the famous signers of the Declaration were elsewhere when the Constitution was being written. Thomas Jefferson was in France as our American minister, and John Adams was American minister to Great Britain.
     
  3. The Constitution established the system of Federal courts.

    No. The Constitution established “one supreme Court” and left it to Congress to establish lower courts.
     
  4. The Constitution gave the Supreme Court the power to declare laws unconstitutional.

    No. The Constitution makes no mention of judicial review, which is common in our legal system now. Judicial review goes back to English common law and was affirmed during the 34-year tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall in the landmark case Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Today, Federal courts at all levels can declare laws unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court has the final word.
     
  5. The Constitution sets the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435.

    No. The Constitution gives this power to the Congress, which has increased the number of House members as the nation’s population has increased. The limit of 435 members was set in 1911. It temporarily exceeded that number for a few years when new states were admitted to the Union, but reverted back to 435 after the next reapportionment. The original proposed Bill of Rights included an amendment that would have set a maximum of one representative for every 50,000 persons. Had it been approved, we would have a very large number of House members today. The Constitution did say that each state would have two senators in the Senate, regardless of the state’s population.
     
  6. The House must choose one of its own members as Speaker, and the Senate must choose one of its own as President pro-tempore.

    No. The Constitution says only that the “House shall chuse their speaker.” The Speaker, third in line to the Presidency, has always been a member of the House. The Constitution also says, “The Senate shall chuse… .a President pro tempore… .” The President pro tempore has always been a senior senator.
     
  7. The Constitution says “all men are created equal.”

    No. The Declaration of Independence says that. The Constitution skirts the issue of slavery, counting each slave as three-fifths of a person in determining representation in Congress. While this definition offends us today, it was an attempt to limit the power of states with large numbers of enslaved people. Otherwise, the enslaved people, who of course could not vote, would have been used to justify larger numbers of representatives for slave states and give them more power in Congress.

  8. The Constitution created the United States as a democracy.

    No. Someone asked Benjamin Franklin whether the delegates to the Constitutional Convention inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia had created a monarchy or a republic. “A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied. The difference: In a democracy, the majority rules, but a republic has a government by the people with checks and balances and a constitution for all to adhere to. Article 4, section 4, states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

(via Prologue: Pieces of History » No, it’s not in the Constitution)

What’s your favorite Constitutional “Myth”?

This month is our 2nd Tumblrversary and we now stand at over 99,500 followers and climbing!   

Two years ago we started the Today’s Document Tumblr as a somewhat dubious social media experiment and never would have believed that today we’d be on the cusp of 100,000 followers.  We love bringing you a little sliver of history every day, and are gratified that you all keep coming back for more.  So here’s to all our fans, followers, rebloggers, history nerds, fellow tumblarians, and to our National Archives colleagues who have made all these great records available for us to share!  Thanks!! 

 

(And just in case this wasn’t apparent, no, there is no “U.S. Social Media Commission” we’re aware of - but check out the GSA’s USA.gov Tumblr - they’re probably the closest thing to it.)

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On February 23, 1945, during the battle for Iwo JimaU.S. Marines raised a flag atop Mount Suribachi. It was taken down, and a second flag was raised. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured this second flag-raising. Now part of U.S. Navy records, it is one of the most famous war photographs in U.S. history.

Despite capturing Mount Suribachi in the early days of the battle, it would take US forces until the end of March and thousands of casualties before they captured the heavily fortified island.

The Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence

This is one of the copies produced by John Dunlap, the official printer of the Continental Congress, and the first version of the Declaration to be printed and distributed. It was inserted into the “rough journal” of the Continental Congress within the July 4 entry.

The handwritten version of the Declaration (aka the “Engrossed” version), later signed by members of the Continental Congress, is on permanent display in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  Starting at 10am today, you can hear it read — four of the readers are descendants of the original signers

Declaration of Independence (Engrossed Version)

Ever been to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence in person?  Ever heard it read?

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Escape and Evasion Case File for Flight Officer Charles (Chuck) E. Yeager, 03/05/1944

On March 5, 1944, future test pilot Chuck Yeager’s P-51 Mustang was shot down while on a mission to Bordeaux, France and he was forced to bailout over Nazi-occupied France.  His harrowing account details how he was nearly shot while descending helplessly in a parachute and narrowly escaped capture with the help of the French Resistance.

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Celebrating the 225th Anniversary of Constitution Day!

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.  

Watch for more posts here on Today’s Document and the National Archives Tumblr as we count down to the Constitution’s 225th!

More Constitution-related events and offerings from the National Archives, including:

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Putting Women on the Map: New Women’s History Collections on Historypin

March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day! To celebrate, the National Archives has created four new collections focusing on women of the past in on Historypin

The Women at Work collection depicts the role of women in the workforce throughout our national life – in farms, shipyards, hospitals, manufacturing plants, markets, and in the aviation industry - including “Mrs. William Wood manages a one hundred and twenty acre farm in Coloma, Michigan, with little male assistance.”

Historical photographs and documents reveal the struggle for woman suffrage in the collection of the same name, including women protesting at the White House in 1917.

Two more collections include Women in the military and famous women from National Archives holdings.

via NARAtions » Putting Women on the Map: New Women’s History Collections on Historypin »

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Ethan Allen and his Vermont militia, the Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by Benedict Arnold, captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York from its small British garrison on May 10, 1775, in the second major engagement of the American Revolution.

A plan of Fort Ticonderoga in July 1758 during the Seven Years War. (111-SC-94756)

Controlling the southern end of Lake Champlain, the fort had been a strategic linchpin during the earlier French and Indian Wars but had later fallen into disrepair.  However, the artillery pieces captured with the fort would prove key months later, when they were removed and used to break the siege of Boston, liberating it from British occupation.

Now a reconstructed museum, Fort Ticonderoga existed only as ruins in the years following the war.  Read more about the fort and a would-be veteran in the compelling A Soldier of the Revolution; Or, Will the Real Isaac Rice Please Stand Up from the National Archives’ Prologue Magazine.

(Ed. note - visited Fort Ti this past summer, along with the “jr. curator.” -D)

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100,000 Followers!

We’re thrilled to share that we reached 100,000 followers at around 9pm on Friday night.  Apologies for the delay in sharing our news, as some of us were off the grid over the weekend, enjoying National Trails Day.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped make Today’s Document a success!  As we work towards getting another 100k Tumblr users hooked on history, please let us know:

Why do you follow Today’s Document? What do you like/dislike — and how can we make it even better?

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