Creating the United States

Page 1 of Declaration of Independence rough draft with gradient fade applied

A partial image of page 1 of the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, with a gradient fade applied

A couple of notes about recent TV appearances, and then an on-topic digression (which is after the jump).

First of all, as previously mentioned, Dr. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was the guest July 1 on C-SPAN?s ?Q&A? program. The program is now available to view online.

And second, if you were watching ABC on Tuesday morning (July 3), you might have seen Dr. Billington live on ?Good Morning America.? On the day before Independence Day, the Library gave GMA and its viewers a rare look at some of our unique documents related to the founding of our nation.

The interview can be read about and seen in its entirety here (upper-right corner).

GMA had intended to discuss five pieces, but time constraints didn?t quite allow for fulsome discussion.

The first to be showcased was one of our ?top treasures,? Thomas Jefferson?s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. We like to say this document is more interesting than the final version with the 56 signature most people are used to because you can see the process that went into crafting it. (Did you know that the Declaration almost included a strong condemnation of slavery? It?s interesting to think how history might have been different if the reference hadn?t been edited out.) I?m told that?s only the second time in the last five years that the document has been brought out to display, but read on to learn about the next opportunity.

The second document was George Mason?s Virginia Declaration of Rights?drafted just one month before Jefferson wrote the Declaration?which strongly influenced both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?s Bill of Rights.

The third document Dr. Billington showed was an enclosure sent by John Hancock, president of the 2nd Continental Congress, to George Washington. It urged that General Washington read the Declaration aloud to the troops.

The fourth item, which was referenced fleetingly as time was running out on the GMA segment, was the so-called ?Dunlap Broadside,? which was the printed copy of the Declaration that was sent on July 6 to Washington himself.

And the fifth and final item, which didn?t get much screen time, was a notable print from the Library?s collections. Made contemporaneously (sometime in the 1770s), it shows the destruction of a statue of King George III on Broadway in what is now Lower Manhattan after American troops had heard the Declaration of Independence. (The tail of George?s horse is apparently on display in the New York Historical Museum.)

The GMA piece gave the Library a great opportunity to mention our new experience for visitors that will be opening in the spring of 2008. One of the new exhibits, ?Creating the U.S.,? will feature documents such as the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, while cutting-edge technology will let visitors manipulate the documents virtually and see how they were influenced by ?antecedent? documents.

It?s going to be quite an upgrade to our existing experience for visitors and, as always, you can watch this space for updates as the project moves forward. But for now, you can read this preview (PDF, 6.36MB), reprinted from our in-house newsletter, the Gazette.


  1. Dr. Mikkel Errorington
    July 7, 2007 at 2:34 am

    The King George III statue is what interested me the most about this article but I feel that our views on such overt postulating of disingenuous prowessness could go on without and herein withfold.

    July 8, 2007 at 7:29 am


  3. Dustin Brewer
    July 9, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Sounds pretty exciting, I can’t wait to see more about it. Great post for the 4th.

  4. shawn kalin
    August 13, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    declaration of independence was created by a group of the most enlightened souls of the ages.

    For such a dramatic departure from the old world ways to occur at that time was truly a miracle.

    We should remember that in our time.

    shawn kalin

  5. Charles Faust
    August 17, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I go to Washington DC at least once a year and have yet to view any of these documents. I’m not sure what is on display, but on my nest visit I will have to find out.

  6. Barry Maddox
    September 6, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    I have sadly never been further East than OH. A goal of mine is to be able to travel someday and see the history of our wonderful country.

  7. David Tapia
    September 14, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    This is very interesting information. I hope to be able to visit Washington so I can see some of these documents in the near future.

  8. Nuttakorn
    November 17, 2007 at 12:57 am

    I really want to see the real-one in the museum. I have seen and know about this from the movie. I really amazing in this.

  9. Paul Thomas
    May 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Someday when we go to Washington we have put this on our list.

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