Would the spirit of the Declaration of Independence have been any different if it referred to Americans as "subjects" instead of "citizens?"
Thomas Jefferson apparently thought so, and recent analysis of a rough draft of the Declaration has confirmed speculation that he considered both before settling on "citizens."
Recent hyperspectral imaging by scientists in the Library of Congress' Preservation Research and Testing Division performed on Jefferson’s rough draft shows he originally wrote the phrase "our fellow subjects." But he apparently changed his mind and heavily scrawled over the word "subjects" was the word "citizens."
"The correction seems to illuminate an important moment for Jefferson and for a nation on the eve of breaking from monarchical rule - a moment when he reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the people of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy," the Library of Congress said.
Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye, according to the Library of Congress.
The correction occurs in the portion of the declaration that deals with U.S. grievances against King George III's incitement of "treasonable insurrections," according to the Library of Congress. The specific sentence is is not in the final draft, but a similar phrase stuck, and the word "citizens" is used elsewhere in the final document.
The word correction has been suspected for some time by scholars, according to the LOC. In "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776," Julian P. Boyd wrote "TJ originally wrote ‘fellow-subjects,’ copying the term from the corresponding passage in the first page of the First Draft of the Virginia Constitution; then, while the ink was still wet on the ‘Rough draught’ he expunged or erased ‘subjects’ and wrote ‘citizens’ over it."