Declaration Project

Editor’s Note: Ever wonder where Jefferson came up with the grievances enumerated in his first draft of the Declaration? You need look no further than the Preamble he composed for the Virginia Constitution. While Jefferson was not present at the proceedings of Virginia’s constitutional constitution, such was his passion for constitution making that he sent the convention delegates a constitution that he’d crafted for the commonwealth while attending the Second Continental Congress — and though it arrived too late in the process to be considered as a whole, so impressive was his preamble that the delegates voted to tack in on to the beginning of the document.

Preamble to Virginia Constitution, Adopted June 29, 1776

Thomas Jefferson.

WHEREAS George the third, king of Great Britain and Ireland, and elector of Hanover, heretofore intrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government, hath endeavoured to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny,

By putting his negative on laws the most wholesome and necessary for the publick good:

By denying his governours permission to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation for his assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years:

By refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the persons to be benefitted by them would relinquish the inestimable right of representation in the legislature:

By dissolving legislative Assemblies repeatedly and continually, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions of the rights of the people:

When dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head:

By endeavouring to prevent the population of our country, and, for that purpose, obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners:

By keeping among us, in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war:

By affecting to render the military independent of, and superiour to, the civil power:

By combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction, giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

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 offences:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:

By plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns, and destroying the lives of our people:

By inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects, with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation:

By prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us, those very negroes whom, by an inhuman use of his negative, he hath refused us permission to exclude by law:

By endeavouring 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 of existence:

By transporting, at this time, a large army of foreign mercenaries, to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:

By answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of injuries:

And finally, by abandoning the helm of government, and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection.

By which several acts of misrule, the government of this country, as formerly exercised under the crown of Great Britain, IS TOTALLY DISSOLVED.


The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Julian P. Boyd et al, Ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950.

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Further reading:

“One of the Most Intriguing Might-Have-Beens in American History”