Rough Draft of The Declaration of Independence

Rough Draft of The Declaration of Independence

One of America's most revered artifacts and national treasures, the persuasive masterpiece of liberty known as the Declaration of Independence wasn't drafted to perfection in one attempt. Like most official documents composed then (and now), the venerated charter of freedom was the polished result of scribbles, sidenotes and strikethroughs.

Via:  archives.gov

Via:  archives.gov

Most are familiar with the signed, engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence shown above. Ratified on July 4, 1776, the document was authored by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 delegates of the Continental Congress. Currently housed at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Declaration is badly faded from past exposure to sun, temperature and humidity, though the parchment still conveys the full weight of its content in straight lines and a clean layout.
Except for the handprint at lower left. Nice work, fathers of a nation..
Complete transcript found HERE.

Less known and perhaps more interesting is the rough draft composed and revised prior to the accepted final copy, shown below. In the month leading up to the ratification of the final copy, Jefferson drafted and revised several iterations of the Declaration. The page below is part of a four-page draft composed by Jefferson and presented to the drafting committee, where changes suggested by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others can be seen. A glaring change attributed to Franklin: "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
Complete transcript found HERE.

Via:  ushistory.org

Discovered in 1947, there is an even earlier known partial draft of the Declaration of Independence, shown on the top half of the page below. A fragment of parchment known as the "Composition Draft", the scrap of writing was found in the Jefferson papers within the Library of Congress and is believed to have been written in early June of 1776.

Via: loc.gov

Via: loc.gov

Much of what Thomas Jefferson initially wrote was edited out of what would become the rough draft and final copy above, but some words withstood the barrage of repeated editing. Among those: "as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends."
Complete transcript found HERE.

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