Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught,” or rough draft, of the Declaration of Independence, written in June 1776, includes dozens of edits from historical figures, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The Library of Congress has made high-resolution microfilm scans of the document available online.
Congress appointed a committee to draft the declaration on June 11, 1776. It included Jefferson, Franklin and Adams along with Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. Jefferson had previously drafted the Virginia Constitution in May of that year, and historians say that earlier writing influenced the Declaration of Independence.
The drafters made 86 changes to the initial manuscript, according to the Library of Congress. The early version shows one of the edits added the iconic phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” which originally read, “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable.”
The final draft’s line, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” was initially wordier. It read: “that from that equal creation they derive in rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.”
See the high-resolution microfilm scans of the documentby clicking here.
(Library of Congress)
Jefferson, the committee and Congress itself made many revisions before releasing the document — some of which reportedly displeased Jefferson. For example, an entire paragraph blaming Britain’s King George III for the American slave trade was omitted from the final version, according to the Library of Congress.
The Declaration of Independence was submitted to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776, approved on July 2 and declared on July 4, which is now celebrated as Independence Day.
This vintage image features the Signing of the Declaration of Independence.
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