On this blog, we’re going to be publishing a number of what we call primary source starters–quick, easy-to-use activity ideas using primary sources from the Library’s collections. There’s even a printable version that includes everything you’ll need to get started.
Thomas Jefferson’s Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence
Every teacher knows how important it is to write a good rough draft, but what about studying a rough draft?
When Thomas Jefferson was asked to write what would become the Declaration of Independence, he was careful to start with a rough draft. After he finished it, he gave it to a group of reviewers, including Benjamin Franklin and future president John Adams, who read it and suggested several changes.
Jefferson’s “original rough draught” lets students see all the scratched-out text and inserted words that Jefferson added as he and his reviewers discussed their edits.
By analyzing this primary source, though, students can think critically about the process that produced the Declaration.
Teachers can have students:
- Compare this draft to the final version of the Declaration
- Speculate about why different changes were proposed
- Brainstorm ways in which the government of the United States might have been different if some changes hadn’t been made.
You can use the Library’s primary source analysis tool and teacher guides to help students analyze Jefferson’s rough draft in further depth.
For background information on the Declaration:
Get the printable version for a copy of the primary source and the Library’s primary source analysis tools and guides.
Can you think of ways teachers could use a historic rough draft like this in the classroom? Please tell us in the comments. Like Jefferson, we’re always happy to have more ideas.