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 natures God1 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;2 that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigour, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected,these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.
Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations.3 No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.
Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven, July 12, 1801.
Note 2. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.Constitution of Massachusetts. [back]
Note 3. This passage is thus paraphrased by John B. McMaster in his History of the People of the United States (ii. 586): One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying, he observed, as to put the right man in the right place. [back]
Note 4. Usually quoted, Few die and none resign. [back]