Imagine learning that students have been studying a particular document for years in their history books, only to find out there is another version of that document.
That is what happened when a 2nd copy of the Declaration of Independence was discovered by Harvard University researchers, Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff. Allen confirmed that there was only one known Declaration of Independence which was produced in 1776, which now sits in the National Archives. The two researchers had been on a mission to find every known discovery of the Declaration of Independence when they stumbled across something that would make headlines and baffle historians everywhere.
Tucked away in a records office in Chichester in Sussex County, England, was a previously unknown copy of the Declaration of Independence and there is one major difference…the signatures are all jumbled together instead of being broken up by state.
“The list of names was intentionally scrambled, we believe, to drive home the point that the signers of the Declaration of Independence signed as individuals, as a community,” said Sneff. “Victory was not sweet. There was financial disaster, the Articles of Confederation were not working … so the 1780s were a period of great instability, despite victory. And this parchment belongs to that decade,” explained Allen. “It is the only version of the Declaration that does that, with the exception of an engraving from 1836 that derives from it. This is really a symbolic way of saying we are all one people, or ‘one community,’ to quote James Wilson,” she continued. “This parchment manuscript illuminates in one stroke how the Federalists and Anti-Federalists debated the question of whether the new republic was founded on the authority of a single, united sovereign people or on the authority of 13 separate state governments,” she added.
Allen and Sneff believe that it was a Founding Father from Pennsylvania, named James Wilson, who ordered that the Sussex Declaration be created. While they are stumped as to how it made its way to England, the researchers believe that American Supporter, The Third Duke of England, may have been responsible for passing the document along to the records office.
The irony with the timing of this discovery is that now in 2017, the country is struggling to unify once again, following a very alienating event. Some people believe that Barrack Obama was the most divisive president to ever hold office, which has caused distressed amongst citizens. Instead of unifying the American people over his eight years in office, some feel that Obama instead catered to race-baiting and fear-mongering. Those who support Trump, feel that his goal is similar to our founding fathers who believed that Americans can be reunited through mutually shared best interests. Researchers believe that it is a valid argument that asks…”Does the American political order rest on a single national people or on treaties among several states.”
Commenters shared their thoughts on the new discovery…
“Declaration of Independence is valuable not only to America but the entire world for the democratic values it represents.”
“Maybe they should use it. Looks like they could use some freedom.”