Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Unique US Declaration of Independence copy found

Published:Tuesday | April 25, 2017 | 4:00 AM

LONDON (AP):

A unique copy of the US Declaration of Independence has been discovered in an unexpected place - England.

The copy, similar to the one viewed by millions each year at the National Archives in Washington, has been locked away in a local records office in south-eastern England forgotten by historians. Its significance wasn't understood until recently, when Harvard researcher Emily Sneff stumbled on a mention in a catalog of the office's holdings. Something tickled her curiosity: the copy was written on parchment.

And when Sneff and Harvard professor Danielle Allen saw the document, they were stunned.

"I thought, 'Holy history, Batman!" Allen told the Associated Press yesterday. "We'd seen a lot of copies, but nothing like this."

Sneff and Allen's sleuthing led to a discovery that could shed new light on the founding document of the United States.

The team studied the document for two years and viewed it in person before sharing their conclusions with other historians last week.

The experts have dated what is now being called the "Sussex Declaration" to the 1780s a time of political tumult before the Constitutional Convention, when the new nation was struggling to survive as a loose association of states governed by the Articles of Confederation.

 

WRITTEN BY HAND

 

The document is 24-inches-by-30 inches - the same size as the one housed at the National Archives. Also like the one at the archives, it is written by hand on parchment the only two of their kind known to exist.

But there are also key differences. The names are not in the same order. For instance, John Hancock isn't listed first or writ large, and the signatories aren't grouped by state.

Historians believe the Sussex Declaration could have been owned by the Third Duke of Richmond, known as the "Radical Duke" because of his support for the American Revolution. The parchment came into the possession of a local lawyer who represented the family. It was deposited at the West Sussex Records Office in the 1950s.

But it remains unclear how the document got to Britain.