Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Wonderful Choice of Words

The Associated Press reported an event of major significance last week. The Library of Congress authorized a group of scientists to examine the Declaration of Independence using the latest technology:
Accompanied by police escort, the document was unveiled outside its protective case for the first time in 15 years on Friday morning for a demonstration of the hyperspectral imaging technology. It normally can only be viewed through a 130-pound oxygen-free safe.

Donning a pair of white researchers' gloves, Maria Nugent, director of the Library of Congress' top treasures collection, slowly lifted a piece of off-white corrugated cardboard to reveal the rough draft of the Declaration, which includes handwritten corrections by both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
What was revealed was "spine-tingling", in the words of a research chemist at the Library.
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 released news of the struck word for the first time on Friday.

Fenalla France, a research chemist at the Library, said her lab made the discovery last year by using hyperspectral imaging, using a high resolution digital camera that compiles a series of images to highlight layers of a document. Some of those invisible layers — like erased text and even fingerprints — pop into view on a computer screen.

In switching from "subjects" to "citizens," 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 the digital technology.
As he wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson realized that the colonist's normal reference to themselves as "subjects" was no longer valid. His revelation was born out of a new way of thinking that then manifested itself throughout the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Can you even imagine what this meant to the Framers? In a wonderful choice of words, they went from "then" to "now".

No comments:

Post a Comment