Thomas Jefferson was a thinker. He knew that words mean things and he always tried to capture the best word to represent the message the was trying to send. Recently, scientists at the Library of Congress found that in writing his most-famous work, the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson “even in the act of declaring independence from England, had trouble breaking free from monarchial rule,” reported the Associated Press.
While drafting the Declaration, Jefferson initially called Americans “subjects.” Then apparently he realized the implications of the word. He was crafting a statement of freedom while at the same time saying the free people were still subject to someone’s rule. He wisely struck the word and chose the more-appropriate “citizens” instead.
“It shows the progress of his mind. This was a decisive moment,” James Billington, Librarian of Congress, said. “We recovered a magic moment that was otherwise lost to history.”
The draft version was written on two sheets of white, legal-size paper using both the backs and fronts of the sheets.
According to the Associated Press, Fenalla France, a research chemist at the Library said it appeared that Jefferson used his hand to wipe the word out while the ink was still wet because a distinct brown smudge is apparent on the paper. The word “subjects” was revealed using hyperspectral imaging.
The discovery was actually made in 2009 at the Library of Congress when a research team used hyperspectral imaging to examine the declaration. It is a high-resolution digital camera that compiles a multiple images to highlight layers of a document. The result is that researchers can see things like erased text and fingerprints.
The digital imaging also shows handwritten changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. It brings to mind the scene in the HBO series, John Adams, where Jefferson, Adams and Franklin review Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration.
There is no word yet as to whether a hidden Masonic symbol with a cipher were also found.