Thomas Jef­fer­son made slip in early Dec­la­ra­tion draft, re­searchers say

Austin American-Statesman - - SATURDAYBRIEFING - By Lau­ren Sausser

WASHINGTON — Preser­va­tion sci­en­tists at the Li­brary of Congress have dis­cov­ered that Thomas Jef­fer­son, even in the act of declar­ing in­de­pen­dence from Eng­land, had trou­ble break­ing free from monar­chial rule.

In an early draft of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, Jef­fer­son wrote the word “sub­jects,” when he re­ferred to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. He then erased that word and re­placed it with “cit­i­zens,” a term he used fre­quently through­out the fi­nal draft.

The li­brary re­leased news of the stricken word for the first time Fri­day.

Fe­nalla France, a re­search chemist at the li­brary, said her lab made the dis­cov­ery last year by us­ing hy­per­spec­tral imag­ing, us­ing a high res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal cam­era that com­piles a se­ries of im­ages to high­light lay­ers of a doc­u­ment. Some of those in­vis­i­ble lay­ers — like erased text and even fin­ger­prints — pop into view on a com­puter screen.

In switch­ing from “sub­jects” to “cit­i­zens,” France said it ap­pears Jef­fer­son used his hand to wipe the word out while the ink was still wet. A dis­tinct brown smudge is ap­par­ent on the paper, but the word “sub­jects” isn’t leg­i­ble with­out the high-tech help. Schol­ars had spec­u­lated that the smear might have been the erased word “pa­tri­ots” or “res­i­dents.”

“This has been a very ex­cit­ing devel­op­ment,” France said, call­ing the find­ings “spine-tin­gling.”

“It shows the progress of his mind. This was a de­ci­sive moment,” said James Billing­ton, li­brar­ian of Congress. “We re­cov­ered a magic moment that was oth­er­wise lost to his­tory.”

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