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The Declaration of Independence ‘Rough Draught’ Revealed

The Library of Congress has shared scans of the microfilm of Thomas Jefferson’s original thoughts on independence.

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When the leaders of the British colonies in America couldn’t stand being ruled by England anymore, they appointed a committee of five men to write the Declaration of Independence. But the final version we are used to now is not the original that Thomas Jefferson wrote. That version, however, is now available in high-resolution microfilm, scans of which can be seen from anywhere in the world online.

The committee to draft the Declaration of Independence included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. According to the Library of Congress, 86 changes were made to Jefferson’s draft – and some of them made Jefferson rather unhappy. There were several cuts made to the document, but the one that Jefferson was most upset about was the removal of a paragraph blaming King George III for slavery in America.

Some of the other changes included:

  • “advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained” became “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”
  • “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable” became “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
  • “that from equal creation they derive in rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness” was shortened to “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures,” was added to the draft.

James is our wordsmith extraordinaire, a legislation hound and lover of all things self-reliant and free. An author of politics and fiction (often one and the same) at and, he homesteads in the Arkansas wilderness.

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