A rare parchment copy of the American Declaration of Independence has been found at a British archive among the papers of an aristocrat who supported the rebels, officials have said.
The manuscript was discovered at the West Sussex Record Office in the southern English city of Chichester by a team of researchers led by two Harvard University academics.
Tests supported the hypothesis that it was produced in the 1780s, West Sussex County Council said earlier this week — just a few years after the declaration itself was issued in 1776.
Harvard academics Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen carried out the research along with the West Sussex Record Office, the British Library, the Library of Congress and the University of York.
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The most interesting feature of the Sussex Declaration is its treatment of the list of names of signatories. In contrast to all other 18th-century versions of the declaration, on this parchment the list of signatories was not grouped by states. The team hypothesizes that this detail supported efforts, made by Wilson and his allies during the Constitutional Convention and ratification process, to argue that the authority of the declaration rested on a unitary national people, and not on a federation of states. That emphasis was a key point of contention in creating the U.S. Constitution.