Declaration of Independence Jefferson's Rough Draft
Thomas Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia after an eight day carriage journey from his home in Virginia. He carried a miniature writing desk in his baggage, and it was on that desk that he composed America's Declaration of Independence from England.
Jefferson was the best-read statesman in the Colonies and the members urged him to the challenge. He spoke 4 languages, owned thousands of books and was up to the task.
Retiring to a small upstairs rented room, he spent 17 days researching and writing the document. Returning to the congress, he presented his hand-penned copy for a vote. Jefferson expected quick acceptance, but the members had other ideas!
In a 2-day debate, they made numerous changes, shown here on Jefferson's personal edited version. He opposed nearly every one, but the many edits clearly indicate he was forced to give ground. Finally convinced they had it right, the congressional delegates voted YEAH on the final copy, and dated it July 4th 1776.
That very document...the original...rests safely today in our National Archives. Your copy here, printed on 2 pages of a parchment-like paper is an identical copy for your own archives!
At the time, The Declaration was considered to be highly inflammatory. The very idea that common people might select or reject their leaders, instead of the opposite, was a radical notion in the late 1700's.
When the document was received in England by King George III, his mood hardened. The King had not wanted war with his golden American colonies. He had sent peace-seeking emissaries. He'd made it known that a deal could be cut. But the Declaration changed his mind. To him, it expressed naked treason.
The King ordered a copy be made for the backpack of every British soldier, with instructions to capture and hang anyone who had signed it. Then he used his royal imprimatur to authorize a massive invasion force, nearly half of which sailed past our islands on Lake Champlain...on its way to war and eventual defeat.
At the time, the King didn't know much about American Exceptionalism, and less about Vermonters. Eight years later, he struggled to understand how this "Rabble in Arms" could have brought his Kingdom to its knees.
Click on the link below the image to see Jefferson's painful edits upon his labor of love.