Thomas Jefferson’s “original draft” or draft of the Declaration of Independence, written in June 1776, includes dozens of editions of historical figures, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The Library of Congress has made high-resolution microfilm scans of the document available online.
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Congress appointed a committee to write 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 writings influenced the Declaration of Independence.
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The editors made 86 changes to the initial manuscript, according to the Library of Congress. The first version shows that one of the editions added the iconic phrase: “We maintain that these truths are evident”, which originally said: “We maintain that these truths are sacred and undeniable”.
The final line of the draft, “which are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” was initially more verbal. He said: “that from that creation they derive from inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the preservation of life, liberty and the search for happiness”.
View the document’s high-resolution microfilm scans by clicking here.
Jefferson, the committee, and Congress made many revisions before releasing the document, some of which reportedly upset Jefferson. For example, according to the Library of Congress, an entire paragraph that blamed King George III of Great Britain for the American slave trade was omitted in the final version.
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The Declaration of Independence was presented to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776, approved on July 2 and declared on July 4, which is now celebrated as Independence Day.