- Title: How did a copy of U.S. Declaration of Independence get to southern England?
- Date: 27th April 2017
- Summary: CHICHESTER, ENGLAND, UK (APRIL 27, 2017) (REUTERS) PEOPLE WALKING ON STREET FLOWERS AND OLD BUILDINGS ON STREET ST. GEORGE'S (ENGLAND) FLAG VARIOUS OF WENDY WALKER, WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, PLACING COPY OF U.S. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ON TABLE WORDS READING (English): "THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" VARIOUS OF WALKER LOOKING AT DOCUMENT (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, WENDY WALKER, SAYING: "This document raises in a way more questions than it answers because how did it get to Sussex, how did it end up here? But behind all those questions are the questions of when was it made, where was it made, why was it made and who was it made for and then how did it get here?" EXTERIOR OF WEST SUSSEX COUNTY RECORD BUILDING VARIOUS OF SIGNS READING (English): "RECORD OFFICE" AND "WEST SUSSEX RECORD OFFICE" (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, WENDY WALKER, SAYING AS SHE POINTS TO DOCUMENT (SOUNDBITE CONTINUES OVER SHOTS OF DOCUMENT) "Well you've got the header here saying 'The Unanimous Declaration Of The Thirteen United States Of America'. So that immediately catches your eye. When you come down to the bottom, you have the names of everyone who signed the original and you can pick out Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Wilson. You have the array of names of the Founding Fathers of the United States. And then, further on down in the document you see that it says that 'these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and independent states that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown' and that, thatâ€™s the nub of what this document is about." DOCUMENT (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, WENDY WALKER, SAYING: "They will do hyperspectral imaging which is looking at the document to see things which the naked eye can't see. So there'll be a whole series of tests and forensic examination being done on it over the summer hopefully to give us a few more answers." VARIOUS OF WALKER WINDING HANDLE TO MOVE SHELVES CONTAINING BOXES OF ARCHIVES IN THE STRONG-ROOM (THIS IS WHERE THE MANUSCRIPT HAS BEEN KEPT SINCE 1956) VARIOUS OF BOXES OF DOCUMENTS ON SHELVES IN STRONG ROOM (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, WENDY WALKER, SAYING: "I mean we knew we had it, we knew what it was but we didn't have the knowledge that they (the Harvard researchers) have bought to it in terms of the connection with the original, I think. And so to have two Harvard academics turn up on your doorstep and start asking all these fascinating questions about one of your documents, you know, was really exciting." VARIOUS OF WALKER LOOKING AT DOCUMENT USING MAGNIFYING GLASS (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEST SUSSEX COUNTY ARCHIVIST, WENDY WALKER, SAYING: "It's written on parchment and it is hand-written and when you first open it up and you look at it, it looks just like any other late 18th century, early 19th century title deeds, of which there are thousands in the strong room. But then you read it you realise this isn't just any title deed, this is a copy of the Declaration." VARIOUS OF DOCUMENT
- Embargoed: 11th May 2017 17:59
- Keywords: U.S. Declaration of Independence England Chichester handwritten manuscript rare Wendy Walker
- Location: CHICHESTER, ENGLAND, UK
- City: CHICHESTER, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0016E6ESZR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: An extremely rare handwritten copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence has been stored away in the archives of a southern English medieval city for decades and now teams of British and American experts are trying to find out how it got there.
The manuscript, only the second such parchment in existence, had been stored for more than 60 years in a strong-room among miles of documents in the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, until its significance was revealed by Harvard University researchers, Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff last Friday (April 21).
Other copies and printed versions of the Declaration exist, but the only other ceremonial parchment is the Matlack Declaration, which dates from 1776 and is kept behind glass at the National Archives in Washington.
Archivist Wendy Walker said on Thursday (April 27) that the document, measuring 24 by 30 inches (60 by 76 cms), raises more questions than it answers.
Called the Sussex Declaration by the Harvard researchers, it is thought to date to the 1780s and was most likely written in New York or Philadelphia.
The researchers believe the parchment was originally owned by the third Duke of Richmond, who was known as the "radical Duke" because he supported the American colonists during the American Revolutionary War.
The Sussex version also differs from all other 18th century versions of the Declaration in that the list of signatories was not grouped by states. The researchers say that suggests it was commissioned by James Wilson, a Founding Father of the United States who supported a federal constitution.
The parchment will now go to the British Library for further scientific tests on the ink and the parchment, which has been nibbled at the edges by mice, to try to determine who actually owns it.
The Sussex office, which houses eight miles of archives dating back 1200 years in a modern building near the centre of Chichester, knew the parchment was in its collection for decades but had not realised how rare it was.
For the time being the parchment, which has been valued and insured for a sum Walker declined to disclose, remains under lock and key in the record office.
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