Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights on display July 1-3

An original copy of the Declaration of Independence, written by hand by Thomas Jefferson. The document will be on display at the New York Public Library, along with an original copy of the Bill of Rights, from July 1 to July 3. Credit: Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library.
An original copy of the Declaration of Independence, written by hand by Thomas Jefferson. The document will be on display at the New York Public Library, along with an original copy of the Bill of Rights, from July 1 to July 3. Credit: Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library

New Yorkers looking for a meaningful Fourth of July need look no further than midtown Manhattan: Two of the country’s most important historic documents are on public display at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

From July 1 to 3, the library will be displaying an original copy of the Bill of Rights and a copy of the Declaration of Independence written by hand by Thomas Jefferson, its primary author. In the library’s copy, Jefferson underlined words and passages that were cut from the final version.

“As a prime source of free information and education, libraries are the true foundation of our democracy of informed citizens,” NYPL President Tony Marx said. “We invite the public to come and be inspired for Independence Day.”

The Declaration was completed July 1, 1776. Before it was ratified on July 4, several changes were made, including the removal of a long piece of text in which Jefferson passionately condemned slavery. The text was cut to appease delegates from Georgia and South Carolina.

The library’s copy of the document was one of several written after July 4 by a distraught Jefferson, who intentionally included and even underlined the cut passages and sent these “fair” copies to five or six friends.

The library’s copy of the Bill of Rights was last displayed several decades ago. It is one of at least 14 copies sent to the states for ratification in 1789.

The library’s copy contains an additional two amendments which were not ratified. The first dealt with compensation for members of Congress. The second outlined a system for the House of Representatives that could have resulted in a House with 6,000 members today.

The two documents have never been displayed side by side before. For preservation reasons, they are typically tucked away in the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division. A new state-of-the-art case is being built that will allow the Bill of Rights to be displayed for extended periods of time.

If you go

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Second floor
12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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