July 2nd, 2010
06:02 PM ET

Analysis confirms "subjects-citizens" change in Declaration

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."

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  1. Clayton

    Always cool to see new things discovered from our history through the use of our advancing technology. Just shows how special the Declaration of Independence is and continues to be.

    July 2, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mrseasun

    So anything pertaining to american history is fascninating to me; i am one of those individuals that likes to read and research history..... so after clicking on this article I also like to read the comments...FOR PURE ENTERTAINMENT!!!! Some of the postings are so hilarious!!!! Get a life.... and I will do the same for laughing at you pathetic comments to each other! Yes, i am aware of my "grammatical errors"! 🙂

    July 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Freedomics

    As we enter the holiday weekend it's interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams BOTH died on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years to the day after congress approved the Declaration of Independence.

    July 2, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph Silver

      Coincidence? I think not! DUN DUN DUN...

      July 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erl

      Old age helps, but what was the temperature that day?

      July 3, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mary

    OH GOD.... are we really talking about this again???

    July 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sweet


    July 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom Shields

    You can only love one women, so if you don’t love American leave. 99% of Americans do not realize how well off we are. I have traveled the world and seen people kill each other for food. When is the last time you saw that happen in American? We are a county that was founded by great men. My biggest problem with Democrats is they don’t truly love this county. They love the idea of what they can make it, but in their quest to do this they are stripping the rest of us of every bit of liberty we have left. I live in a state that is completed run by Democrats and I need a permit to cut down a tree on my own land they tax us to flush the toilet.

    July 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kansas Yahoo

      I live in a state run completely by Republicans and it is like living under the Taliban.

      July 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justsayinnnn

      So, Kansas Yahoo: I don't recall any women walking around in full-body veils, or Young men being stopped by the 'decency police' for wearing shorts in 90 degree weather, in Kansas, OR any other state in America. Nor have I heard of 'infidels' being stoned or beheaded for converting to a religion other than Islam in Kansas. So I think your comment was a bit over-reaching. You seem to have no idea just how much freedom we have here in America compared to other nations, REGARDLESS of which political party is 'in charge.'

      July 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Shields

      Kansas Yahoo
      Have you ever met the Taliban or Al Qaeda? My answer would be no. I have and it shows your complete ignorance when you compare anything in America to those terrorist. But that is what democrats do, you have an intelligent discussion and they call you a Nazi or Taliban when they can not come up with a coherent response. You probably hate America too, and think we should apologize to the world for what we do.

      July 3, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Erl

      Whho says we can only love one woman? Divorce rate is about 50%. Democrats/liberals/Republicans/conservatives all love their country. Could you maybe move to a state with more Republican voters?

      July 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    E pluribus unum.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 68IOU1

    These men were so brave. Most revolutions are fought by those who have nothing to lose but, at the time, the AVERAGE American had a higher standard of living than those in Britain AND the leaders knew that they would be hanged for treason if the effort was lost. Definitely not the ranting of a desperate group simply seeking power and revenge.

    This research clearly shows the change in thought process AS events began to develop. Before the declaration, we were British subjects in America. After, we were citizens of America. Very cool find.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Actually it has been found that most revolutions are instigated by people who have a rising level of prosperity. They usually are fighting because there political rights do not fit with their new found affluence.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jimmyk

    The way CNN posted this on the homepage, I actually changed the Declaration of Independence for a sec.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve Nichols


    I have Native American (yes, caps) blood in my heritage, and am honored by that reality. If you were inclined to read history, you'd know that the Europeans that came to the Western Hemisphere managed to exterminate 95 percent of the residing population in less than 150 years – quite an achievement, don't you think? Pride based on the ability to prevail over those unable to resist weapons of greater efficiency is, in a word, pitiful. You, sir, are a disgrace to our genus and species. Stupid is pandemic.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jimmyk

    *actually thought the government changed.....

    Huge typo.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • more

      ... but a really funny one, too!

      July 3, 2010 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. ed

    only on CNN can an article about a word change in the draft of the declaration of independence turn into a debate about illegal aliens, simply amazing.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jody

    Whether you are Rep. or Dem. or whatever, I think we can all agree that all the bozo's that lead our nation think of us as subjects and not citizens. I am conviced that very few of them actually care about the people of this country, they only care about their own personal agendas and perception.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • AthensGuy

      agree. in fact, there are few dif. between dems and reps. we live under a 1 party system: the party of money and political influence

      July 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jody

    I also wonder, if a Hispanic wears a Mexican flag t-shirt on Sunday – will they be forced to turn it inside out like those students in Calif. who wore US Flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo?? I realize those guys were being jerks – but I bet there will be some jerks on the other side of the coin as well and if anything is said – they will be labled worse than the jerk kids from Calif.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ryan

    look at all you bickering fools. happy 4th!

    July 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
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