Composition Draft of That Part of the Declaration of Independence containing the Charges against the Crown

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776
(Princeton University Press, 1950), 417-20

Whereas George      Guelph King of Great Britain & Ireland and Elector of Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the Kingly office in this government, hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable & insupportable tyranny

1. by <neg> putting his negative on laws the most wholesome & necessary for the public good

<has kept some colonies without judiciary establmts>[1]

2. by denying to his governors permission to pass laws of <the most> immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation for his <con>assent &, when so suspended, neglecting <for m> to attend to them, for many years:

3. by refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the persons to be benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right<s> of representation in the legislature:

<judges dependant>[2]

4. by dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly & continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people:

5. when dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system <[in a state of dissolution]>[3] without any legislative <body> head.

6. by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country <by> & for that purpose obstructing the laws [for the naturalization] encouraging the importn[4] of foreigners & raising the conditions of new appropriati<ng>ons <new> of lands:

refused judiciary establmts to some without unjust & partial[5] judges dependant

erected swarms of offices[6]

7. by keeping among us in times of peace standing armies & ships of war:

8. by affecting to render the military independant of & superior to the civil power:

9. by combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction giving his <con>assent to their pretended acts of legislation <for imposing taxes on us without our consent.

a. for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: & protectg them &c.-murders[7]

b. for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

c. for <depriving us of> imposing taxes on us without our consent:

d. for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury:

e. for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:

for taking away our charters & altering fundamentally the forms of our governments[8]

f. for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever


10. by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns, <des> & destroying the lives of our people:


11. by inciting insurrections of our fellow <subjects> citizens[9] with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation

12. by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom by an inhuman use of his negative he hath <from time to time> refused us permission to exclude by law:[10]

13. by endeavoring 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 life> of existence.[11]

14. by transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, & tyranny already begun <in a stile> with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy so unworthy <a> the head of a civilized <people> nation[12]

15. by answering our repeated petitions <against this repeated> for redress with a repetition of injur<y>ies: <with an accumulation of new injury>[13]

16. and finally by abandoning the helm of government <&> & declaring us out of his allegiance & protection.[14]

<[and by various other acts of tyranny too often enumerated to need repetition, and too cruel for the reflection of those who have felt them.]>[15]

Dft (DLC). Endorsed in margin: “Constitution of Virginia first ideas of Th: J. communicated to a member of the convention.” For a full description of this document, see the Virginia Constitution, June 1776, notes to Document I, where a close comparison is made between the First and Third Drafts in order to establish the text of the first page of the former as it existed prior to the additions and rearrangement made by TJ when he employed it as the composition draft of that part of the Declaration of Independence containing the list of charges against the crown. The notes below indicate the extent of TJ’s additions and rearrangement for this purpose. The terms First Draft and Third Draft, as employed in the following notes, refer respectively to these drafts of the Virginia Constitution, q.v.

The extent of TJ’s additions shows how carefully and continually he endeavored to lengthen “this black Catalogue of unprovoked injuries,” as it was termed in the Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain in 1775 (JCC, ii, 164); TJ’s Summary View and Declaration of Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms included briefer lists of this nature, and the First Draft of the Virginia Constitution was a further elaboration. Even that, however, did not exhaust the possibilities, nor, indeed, did these additions to the First Draft complete the catalogue, for when the “Rough draught” of the Declaration was finished TJ was still able to add to the list. The Virginia Resolutions of 15 May 1776, which contained a brief list of charges against the crown, may possibly have furnished inspiration for a part of TJ’s initial bill of particulars as expressed in the First Draft.

[1] This sentence interlined and struck out after the Third Draft was made; see note 4. The paragraphs were numbered by TJ for convenience in rearranging them; see notes 9, 10, and 12. 

[2] Interlined and struck out after Third Draft was made; see note 4. 

[3] Bracketed in MS and deleted before Third Draft was made. 

[4] The words “for the naturalization” were bracketed in the MS, and the words “encouraging the importn” were interlined after the Third Draft was made. The corresponding passage in the “Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence incorporates both phrases. 

[5] Text only partly legible, and intended sense doubtful. 

[6] The three subject-headings between paragraphs 6 and 7 were added after the Third Draft was made. The first (see note 1) and the second (see note 2) were interlined at other places and then struck out. These subject-headings appear in expanded form and in this particular sequence at the corresponding point of the “Rough draught.” Being unnumbered, these subject-headings were obviously interlined at this point after TJ had finished numbering the paragraphs on the first page of the First Draft. 

[7] The phrase “& protectg them &c.—murders” was added after the Third Draft was made; this addition was raised to the status of a separate item on the list of charges in the “Rough draught.” These subheadings were alphabetized after the Third Draft was made. 

[8] This sentence was interlined after the Third Draft was made and indeed after the subheadings in this section were alphabetized; it occurs at this point, and in precisely the same phraseology, in the “Rough draught” of the Declaration. 

[9] This change is important as indicating that TJ used this part of the First Draft as a composition draft for the Declaration. Both the First Draft and the Third Draft read “fellow subjects”; so did the “Rough draught” as originally written. However, TJ erased the word “subjects” and wrote “citizens” over it; this was perhaps done as he was making the “Rough draught,” for the Adams copy of the Declaration reads “fellow citizens.” But the important point to be noted is that, in making the correction in the “Rough draught,” he also made it in the First Draft. He would scarcely have done so if he had not been using the First Draft as the composition text for the “Rough draught.” 

[10] This passage was greatly expanded in the Declaration of Independence, differing markedly in this respect from all other paragraphs in this part of the First Draft, some of which were copied verbatim in the “Rough draught” and all others with slight modification. By his rearrangement TJ caused paragraph 12 to fall at the end of his list of charges; this being so, he may very well have rewritten it in the composition text of which Document II in this series was a part. It is difficult to imagine so oratorical a passage (the phrase is John Adams’) being written as it appears in the “Rough draught” without having been preceded by some other composition text aside from the corresponding part in the First Draft. 

[11] This paragraph is bracketed in the margin of the First Draft, obviously because TJ decided to place it between paragraphs 10 and 11, where he had inserted the figures “14.13.” (see note 12). 

[12] This paragraph is also bracketed in the margin of the First Draft for insertion between paragraphs 10 and 11. The “Rough draught” includes paragraphs 14 and 13, in this order, so as to coincide precisely with the arrangement indicated by TJ when he inserted “14.13.” between paragraphs 10 and 11. 

[13] This paragraph, though bracketed in the margin of the First Draft, is repeated in the “Rough draught” not as a separate charge but as a part of the summation: “in every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered by repeated injuries… .” 

[14] This paragraph is bracketed in the margin of the First Draft. It occurs in the “Rough draught” precisely at the point indicated by TJ in placing the figure 16 between paragraphs 9 and 10 of the First Draft. 

[15] Brackets in MS. This passage was not included in the Third Draft and must therefore have been deleted before that Draft was made.