Danielle Allen: One Period Could Change the Meaning of the Declaration of Independence

pundit from another planet

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 15: Ethan Kasnett, an 8th grade student at the Lab School in Washington, DC, views the original constitution. (Brendan Smialowski/GETTY IMAGES)Danielle Allen is a political theorist at the Institute of Advanced Study and a contributing columnist for The Post. Her research will be the focus of a free conference on the Declaration of Independence titled “Punctuating Happiness, on June 23 at National Archives in Washington.

Danielle Allen writes: For all that we talk about “original” founding documents, when it comes to the Declaration of Independence at least, we’ve had multiple versions since the earliest days of the revolution. The most important difference among these versions appears in the sentence about self-evident truths.

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The manuscripts written out by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; the version voted on by Congress, as attested to in the official minutes recorded by Charles Thomson; and the official poster printed up by John Dunlap at Congress’s request, on July 4 and 5, 1776, record a very long second sentence, reading as follows:

“We hold these…

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