Declaration of Independence Copy Is Unlike All the Others

It was uncovered in archives of English town
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2017 7:16 AM CDT
2nd Parchment Copy of Declaration of Independence Found ... Outside US
This parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence was found in the Chichester record offices.   (West Sussex Record Office Add Mss 8981)

An amazing find by Harvard researchers has brought the number of known parchment copies of the Declaration of Independence to two: One in DC's National Archives, and one in a tiny records office in the place the US declared independence from. Researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen believe the copy they uncovered in the archives of the town of Chichester, England, once belonged to Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, known as the "radical Duke" for his support of the American colonists, the Boston Globe reports. They made the find after spotting a catalog entry online while doing research for the Declaration Resources Project, which is collecting data on different versions, the New York Times reports.

Allen and Sneff believe the parchment was commissioned in the 1780s by James Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer known as a strong nationalist. Allen tells the Harvard Gazette that the copy is unlike any others they have found—and most other documents of the era—because it scrambles the order of the signatories instead of grouping them by state. "This is really a symbolic way of saying we are all one people, or 'one community,' to quote James Wilson," she says. Allen, a professor of government, says the document addresses a "key riddle" of the American system: whether the country was founded by its people, or by a collection of states. The researchers are now looking into how the copy ended up in England. (More Declaration of Independence stories.)

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