Sam Burnham, Curator
There’s no photos allowed. There’s a security guard on each side of the case. It’s under glass in a controlled environment to prevent further deterioration.
But seeing THE Declaration of Independence at the National Archives was special. It’s huge. Drafted across a sheet of animal skin in Jefferson’s own hand. Not a $3.50 tea stained paper copy from the gift shop, the one he spread across the desk and wrote.
John Hancock’s signature stands out as good as anything on the original. Staring back at you, I can’t speak for the King but I could read it without my spectacles.
Down at the bottom, toward the left corner there’s a handprint. It’s the kind of print you leave when there’s a smear of ink on your fingers and you lean over the paper, bracing yourself on your hand. The print offers you a connection with the humanity of the Founders. This wasn’t just spit out of a machine, real people did this.
And that last line gets me every time:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Yep. Every time. Happy 4th, y’all.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire