The ideas contained in the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms were not new. Every major statement or resolution published about the maltreatment received by the colonists at the hands of the British Empire contained much of the same grievances, including the Declaration of Independence that followed it, going back to the 1763 pamphlet The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved published by James Otis Jr.
On June 23, 1775, John Rutledge of South Carolina, William Livingston of New Jersey, Dr. Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Johnson of Maryland were appointed a committee "to draw up a declaration to be published by General Washington upon his arrival at the camp before Boston." The report was brought in the 24th, and on the 26th after a period of debate, was recommitted. John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson were shortly thereafter added to the committee.
First drafted on July 5, 1775, the The Humble Petition of the Twelve United Colonies(as it was originally titled) describes ten years of continued requests to the king without redress, while reiterating respect for Great Britain in not separating and raising armies for independence. To that end, the colonists are taking up arms only because they wish to defend "the Freedom that is our Birthright and which we ever enjoyed until the late Violation of it".
In addition, the first section condemns the institution of "an absolute property in" slavery.
Jefferson wrote a draft of the Declaration, but John Dickinson thought it might be too outspoken. Dickenson prepared a new one, retaining the closing paragraphs as drawn by Jefferson. In this form the declaration was reported June 27, and agreed to July 6. John Dickenson has claimed credit for the authorship, but some historians disagree(notably historian Julian Boyd) with this and point to Jefferson as the true author.
- Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, Full text in old English
- The Humble Petition of the Twelve United Colonies, by Their Delegates in Congress, to the King
- A Declaration by the representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms, PDF download