Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776
(Princeton University Press, 1950), 423-8



This text of the Declaration of Independence is from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776 (Princeton University Press, 1950), 423-8. Although at some point Jefferson labeled this manuscript as the “original Rough draught,” it was not his first drafting of language for the Declaration. Portions of what Julian P. Boyd, the first editor of the Papers and a student of the writing of the Declaration, called Jefferson’s “composition draft” have survived. What Jefferson came to call his “original Rough draught” was, Boyd surmised, a fair copy made from the earlier drafts. It has considerable significance, however, as the earliest complete version of the Declaration in Jefferson’s hand. It did take on some characteristics of a draft, Jefferson making several emendations to it (including alterations he ascribed to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who along with Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston made up the committee charged by the Continental Congress with the drafting of a declaration). In editing the “Rough draught” for publication, Boyd endeavored to recover the text of Jefferson’s fair copy—that is, Jefferson’s original full text before any collaborative revision. To that end, this rendition of the text does not take account of alterations to the manuscript that represented, in Boyd’s estimation, changes to the fair copy. In Volume 1 of the Papers, the “original Rough draught” is the third of a set of documents related to the Declaration. The other documents in the group are: two parts of the composition draft (pp. 417-23, referred to in the annotation below as Document I and Document II); a version showing changes made by the committee and by Congress (called Document IV, noted on p. 429 of the volume and incorporated in a set of Jefferson’s notes on pp. 315-19); and the Declaration as adopted by Congress (Document V, pp. 429-33). Boyd’s Editorial Note on the drafting of the Declaration is on pp. 413-17. There, and in the annotation to the “Rough draught” below, he cited John H. Hazelton, The Declaration of Independence: Its History (New York, 1906) and Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence. A Study in the History of Political Ideas (New York, 1922 and 1942). He also cited his own work, Julian P. Boyd, The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text (Princeton, 1945), which illustrated the “original Rough draught” along with other manuscript versions of the Declaration and is available in a revised edition edited by Gerard W. Gawalt (Hanover, N.H., 1999).