'Declaration' Reveals Jefferson Slip-Up

Founding father wrote 'subjects,' then changed to 'citizens'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 3, 2010 8:07 AM CDT
A correction to a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. Recent imaging clearly confirmed that Jefferson originally wrote "subject" then changed it to "citizen."   (Susan Walsh)
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(Newser) – Thomas Jefferson, even in the act of declaring independence from England, had trouble breaking free from monarchical rule. In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the word "subjects," when he referred to the American public. He then erased that word and replaced it with "citizens," a term he used frequently throughout the final draft. The Library of Congress revealed the struck word for the first time yesterday.

In switching from "subjects" to "citizens," researcher Fenalla 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, although the word "subjects" is not legible without the help of digital imaging technology. "This has been a very exciting development," France said, calling the findings "spine-tingling." The rough draft of the Declaration includes handwritten corrections by both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, which one researcher calls "a pretty good editorial committee."

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