Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From the Stacks: Manuscript Copy of the Declaration of Independence

Guest post by Esti Brennan, Social Media Intern

[First page of the manuscript draft. George Sackville Germain Papers, Clements Library.]

In celebration of Independence Day, the Clements Library presents this manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence, from the papers of George Sackville Germain. Surprisingly, this document is not part of our American manuscript collections, as Germain was a British Lord and served as a colonial secretary for his country. According to a 1959 exhibit bulletin, the manuscript was most likely copied from the original shortly after July 4th, 1776 for the purpose of transmitting its content across the Atlantic to Lord Sackville. Though the Declaration was quickly picked up and reprinted by the British media, Germain's position warranted an earlier, private copy of the document.

[Detail of the signature portion of the manuscript, with a demure copy of John Hancock's famous autograph.]

The bulk of the collection consists of Germain's military correspondence, as well as notes and reports on various events, with a particular focus on his oversight of British forces during the American Revolution. Included in his papers are secret documents detailing the activities of various American revolutionary leaders during the time of the war, as well as non-covert correspondence with many of the American commanders-in-chief who are represented elsewhere in the Clements collections.

We hope our readers in the States have a delightful holiday tomorrow, and that those of you elsewhere enjoy, as always, our bits of history. Happy Independence Day!

Further reading:

Finding aid for the George Sackville Germain papers, 1683-1785.

A 1948 issue of The Quarto that lists the manuscript in the "Catalogue of an Exhibition in Honor of the National Society of Autograph Collectors."

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