As of July 6th, APS offices are open to staff and invited visitors. The Society will remain closed to the public until further notice. Library & Museum staff now have access to our collections and will respond to reference and photoduplication requests as soon as possible. However, please note that response times may be delayed due to increased demand. The Society will continue a robust slate of virtual programs throughout the fall. Read more about virtual programming and resources that can be accessed remotely. For further information on the APS reopening and its COVID response, please click here.

Editing the Declaration

If you had to edit the Declaration of Independence, could you? Would you search for formatting and grammatical errors or would you focus on the content? Maybe you would do both. Of course, once you edit it, you have to give it back to the writer. Are you ready to deal with an angry author?

These activities are meant to take you back to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. This resource is inspired by the Society's handwritten draft that Thomas Jefferson gave to Richard Henry Lee. Known as a "clean copy," it is an initial draft that contains details on edits suggested and made by the Continental Congress and various publishers.  

The activities provide details on how the known versions of the Declaration differ, the timelines that gave us those versions, and an exercise in editing this founding document. Research conducted by Education staff, particularly Christine Freije.

Please note (c/w racist language): We acknowledge that, as an author, politician, and Revolutionary, Jefferson was trying to build a very strong case for American Independence. At the same time, we acknowledge that his language and actions are heavy with contradictions and have caused harm to many. For example, one of the grievances that he lists reads as follows: "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions." Jefferson's racist language here, referring to the Native peoples who live in North America, is just one example of the deep contradictions of both the Declaration of Independence and the vision the Founders established for the new nation. The document, in its many editions, asserts in the first line that "all men are created equal," but it is subject to the legacy of its authors and to the nation that was established on stolen land and through the enslavement, displacement, and disfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of human beings.

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