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a declaration of independence. Lee's absence, which was of necessity to be of uncertain duration, precluded his being selected to serve on this Committee, in accordance with parliamentary practice, and as the resolution was offered under instructions from the Virginia colony, another of its representatives, Thomas Jefferson, was selected to head the Committee, with, as the other members, John Adams, the seconder of the resolution in the Congress, Franklin, Sherman and R. R. Livingston, the last representing those who thought that the time had not yet arrived for such an extreme measure.
The Committee unanimously requested Jefferson to prepare the draught, but before reporting it to the Committee he communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, because he says “they were the two members whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit before presenting it to the Committee.
Their alterations were two or three only, and mostly verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the Committee, and from them unaltered, to Congress."
Jefferson reported the draught to the Congress on Friday, June 28, when it was read and ordered to lie on the table. On July 1, the Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole and resumed the consideration of the original motion of Lee “respecting independency," which, after being debated through the day, was carried and was reported to the House and further consideration postponed to July 2, when it was adopted. The Congress, sitting in Committee of the Whole, then proceeded to the consideration of the Declaration reported by Jefferson, which had been referred to it on July 1, and examined, debated and amended it during the 2d, 3d and 4th of July.
Jefferson, in his Autobiography, says :: “ The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was struck out in complaisance
See E. Rutledge to John Jay, June 8, 1776, Jefferson's Autobiography, Ford's Jefferson, Vol. i, p. 19.
2 Jefferson to J. Madison, August 30, 1823, Ford's Jefferson, i, p. 26. On this point see also Autobiography of John Adams, quoted by Ford, ibid, i, 24.
3 Randolph's Jefferson, Vol. i, p. 15.
to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under these censures, for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."
In the afternoon of the fourth the debate was closed and the Declaration as agreed to in the Committee of the Whole was reported by Mr. Harrison as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole and was adopted by the House.
With the view of ascertaining more definitely the historic relation of the copy in the possession of this Society to the original draught, Mr. John Vaughan, the Librarian of the Society, upon the receipt of the document from Mr. Lee, wrote to Mr. Jefferson, asking him concerning this point, and received the following reply:: "To JOHN VAUGHAN, Esq.
“MONTICELLO, September 16, 1825. “Dear Sir :-I am not able to give you any particular account of the paper handed you by Mr. Lee, as being either the original or a copy of the Declaration of Independence, sent by myself to his grandfather. The draught, when completed by myself, with a few verbal amendments by Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, two members of the Committee, in their own handwriting, is now in my own possession, and a fair copy of this was reported to the Committee, passed by them without amendment, and then reported to Congress. This latter should be among the records of the old Congress; and whether this or the one from which it was copied and now in my hands, is to be called the original is a question of definition. To that in my hands, if worth preserving, my relations with our University gives irresistible claims.
“Whenever in the course of the composition, a copy became overcharged, and difficult to be read with amendments, I copied it fair, and when that also was crowded with other amendments, another fair copy was made, etc. These rough draughts I sent to
1 For a full review of the circumstances leading up to the Declaration and its adoption and signing, see Frothingham's Rise of the Republic of the United States, Boston, 1872.
? The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by H. A. Washington, Vol. vii, New York, 1854, pp. 409, 410.
distant friends who were anxious to know what was passing. But how many, and to whom, I do not recollect. One sent to Mazzei was given by him to the Countess De Tessie (aunt of Madame de Lafayette) as the original, and is probably now in the hands of her family. Whether the paper sent to R. H. Lee was one of these, or whether, after the passage of the instrument, I made a copy for him, with the amendments of Congress, may, I think, be known from the face of the paper. The documents Mr. Lee has given you must be of great value,and, until all these private hoards are made public, the real history of the revolution will not be known."
On April 24, 1840, in response to Mr. Vaughan's request Richard Henry Lee sent him the following statement:
“ The Draught of the Declaration of Independence in the Athenæum [American Philosophical Society]' in Philadelphia, in the handwriting of Mr. Jefferson, came into my possession, together with the MSS. of Richard Henry Lee from Francis L. Lee, one of the sons of R. H. Lee; and was presented by me to the Athenæum [American Philosophical Society] in Pha.
“The history of this Document, given to me by my father and his brother, as given them by their Father, R. H. Lee derived from Mr. Jefferson, is this, that after alterations had been made in the Committee of the first draught drawn by Mr. Jefferson, he drew two Draughts, one to be reported to Congress, and the other for Richard H. Lee, which he sent to him enclosed in a letter dated (I think) on the 8th July 1774 [sic]. This letter and the draught were carefully kept by R. H. Lee and after his death were as carefully preserved by his sons. Copies of the letter were taken; but the original had been lost before the MSS. of R. H. Lee came into my hands. The copy which I presented to the Athenæum [American Philosophical Society) with the Draught was declared to me by the sons of R. H. Lee to be an exact copy. The Draught, being drawn by Mr. Jefferson himself before the report had been made to Congress, is as much an Original as any other in existence. The interlineations on the Draught were written by Arthur Lee.
“RICHARD HENRY LEE, "A.D. 1840. Grandson and Biographer of R. H. Lee."
1 Mr. Lee seems to have consused the American Philosophical Society with the Athenæum, which was a tenant in the building of the former at the time of Mr. Lee's visit to Philadelphia.
A careful study of the Lee manuscript copy in the possession of this Society clearly shows it to be the wording of the draught as reported by the Committee of five to the Congress. There is nothing to indicate whether it was a copy made by Jefferson at the same time that he made the fair copy to be reported to the Congress or later but prior to the writing of his letter of transmittal to Lee on July 8. Nor is there anything to prove whether the underscoring of the parts stricken out by the Congress was done by Jefferson or by some other hand at a later date, although Jefferson seems to have underscored these parts in all the fair copies he subsequently made of which we have knowledge.
Under the circumstances it was natural that Jefferson should send to Lee a copy of the Declaration so soon as it was agreed upon, and it seems therefore probable that when writing a fair copy to report to the Congress, and not anticipating any material alteration of it, he should, also, so as to lose no time, make another copy to send to Lee. As the Congress was sitting in secret session the necessity of maintaining all the safeguards of secrecy as to its pending deliberations prevented his forwarding this copy until after the adoption and promulgation of the Declaration. Then on the 8th of July, when he could, with propriety, send it, he found it necessary, because of the unexpected changes made by the Congress, to enclose also a copy of the text as finally adopted.'
Richard Henry Lee, Jr., in The Life and Correspondence of his grandfather, says (p. 175), that Jefferson in his letter of July 8, 1776, enclosed a copy of the Declaration as “ drawn in the Committee and also a copy of the Declaration as adopted by Congress.” This statement, taken in connection with the fact that the marginal notes of the changes by the Congress in this Society's copy were not made by Jefferson, but are in the handwriting of Arthur Lee, who was not in this country at any time during the year 1776, is in entire accord with that made by Jefferson in his letter of transmittal, in which he says, “I enclose a copy of the Declaration of Inde
1 I have been unable to ascertain whether the copy of the text as adopted by the Congress was among the Lee papers presented to the University of Virginia, and if so, whether it was saved from the fire which destroyed its Library building in October, 1895. The Lee papers were contained in a trunk which, at the time of the fire, was thrown out of an upper window and broken by the fall. The papers were gathered up into a bundle and it is hoped none were lost, but until the new Library building is completed they cannot be examined.
pendence as agreed to by the House, and also as originally framed " and with Lee's reply thanking him for the “inclosures."
If this manuscript copy had been made after the 4th of July it seems most likely that Jefferson would have copied the document as finally adopted by the Congress on that date, or at least would have indicated on the margin all the changes that had been made by the Congress. It also seems probable that the copy of the text as adopted by the Congress, enclosed by Jefferson for purpose of comparison, was a printed copy, as the document was by order of Congresso immediately put in print, and on the 5th the President transmitted copies, probably in the form of a broadside, to several assemblies, and it appeared in The Pennsylvania Evening Post, for Saturday, July 6, 1776 (Vol. ii, No. 228); had it been another manuscript copy it would have been preserved by Lee with the same care as he gave to the one now in the possession of this Society. The accompanying copy could not have been the copy in the Emmet Collection now in the Lenox Library, hereafter to be referred to, which is said, also, to have belonged to “the Lee family," since that, too, is a copy of the draught as presented by the Committee and not as adopted by the Congress.
The marginal notes showing the additions to the text made by the Congress are evidently written by a different hand from the one that wrote the draught, and according to the endorsement, they were written by Arthur Lee. The handwriting appears to be his and I see no reason to doubt the correctness of the statement. Arthur Lee was in Europe, and had been there for some years, when the Declaration was adopted and did not return until September, 1780. From which it would seem certain that at a date subsequent to this he and R. H. Lee compared the draught written by Jefferson with the document as passed by the Congress and marked the omissions and wrote on the margins the additions.
It is probable that the endorsement on the document was made some years after it was received, which may account for the erroneous date on it of "6 1777," which error would not be likely to have been made had it been written when received in 1776.
1« Resolved, That copies of the Declaration be sent to the several assemblies, conventions and committees or councils of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the continental troops ; that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army.”
2 Frothingham, loc. cit., p. 544.