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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soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. nicole

    YOU MEAN "EMERGING REPUBLIC" YOU IDIOTS!...CNN– GET YOUR BULL CRAP STRAIGHT FOR ONCE!

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

    Andrew Messenger: Do you have a source for this? "King George was all about socialism,". I'd like to learn more about it.

    July 2, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erl

      Excellent question, but he needs a dictionary before he rewrites our history. One thing George III was NOT, was a socialist, he was a monarchist, among other things.

      July 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • FogBaron

      I'm sure Andrew will be back any minute now with his reference...

      July 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. true human

    Any one here after the big event....Columbus 1492....is an illegal wetback....now go the #$@& back where you from and take your slaves with you.

    July 2, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul Ronco

    He might as well have just left it, as we are now essentially the subjects of corporations.

    July 2, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James

    man that reply to "darth Vader" by "luke skywalker" was some seriously funny stuff

    July 2, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • yep

      Beam me up, Scotty!

      July 3, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. Brains

    I can't believe CNN mentioned Jefferson without bringing up slavery. It's rare that CNN doesn't demonize the Founding Fathers. Police and Federal law enforcement now teach that the Founding Fathers were "Terrorists" because they dissented from the crown. Don't believe me? Youtube it.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Winston Sumirsan

      hehe...there were no terrorists, even in Boston tea party that was a massacre of tyrants towards peaceful people. Why?

      No one is killing oneself to kill innocent others without guns and not being in battle fields.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • tonY

      How is it demonizing to state he owned slaves. It's the truth, deal with it.

      July 3, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. touristguy87

    "Btw...What's an "SMGi"?"

    sub-machine gun?

    July 3, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. touristguy87

    "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 think that there is not one thing that all Americans agree on.

    July 3, 2010 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Retired LE

    The Second Amendment was written to ensure we remain CITIZENS and to prevent the government from considering us as SUBJECTS.

    July 3, 2010 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. 4chan

    Rule 34, your argument is invalid.
    Come on people, let's not turn this into a 4chan post.

    July 3, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. polondia Jolo

    African-Americans were not considered citizens being humans themselves, and occupants in America on American soil as was true for whites. Beings slaves to even Jefferson himself, does damaged for ever in history of any true sense of what a democracy is, as a country for the people. All the people. It's still the problem faced today, the democ-racial divide.

    In the future, when America IS GONE, but spoken about by future generations, this will be a more represented fact in history. To date, it is still contentious that a democracy could exist with humans in astate of bondage, then as now, physical or ecomonical.

    Perhaps, Jefferson thought in a flash moment at the time of his writings about his slaves as "subject" could be good for all to be subjugated. He did understand this from his stay in Europe, how for centuries Europeans were subjects of the crown. Serfs (slaves), were forced to work the lands. Vassals, in exchange for services to their superiors.

    July 3, 2010 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Thomas Jefferson

    Ok, allow to to set everyone straight. We founded this country because we were being screwed over by the King so we decided to break away. Freedom of religion is simply common decency, don't overcomplicate it. As far as illegals, come in, learn the language and apply like all the Dutch, German, Italian, Irish, Poles etc and this country will give you an opportunity. Don't abuse it though. We had a flag, it was yellow with a snake and it says "Don't Tread On Me". That is all for now, it's very hard to blog from my grave. Oh and on the after life...<<>>

    July 3, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Ok, allow meto to set everyone straight. We founded this country because we were being screwed over by the King so we decided to break away. Freedom of religion is simply common decency, don't overcomplicate it. As far as illegals, come in, learn the language and apply yourselves to contributing to our country like all the Dutch, German, Italian, Irish, Poles etc and this country will give you an opportunity. Don't abuse it though. We had a flag, it was yellow with a snake and it says "Don't Tread On Me". That is all for now, it's very hard to blog from my grave. Oh and on the after life...<>

      July 3, 2010 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. john

    Possession is nine tenths of the law : ) Anyway, we didn't colonize N. America. Europe did. Even the Indians came from somewhere and displaced the original peoples, who had also displaced some other peoples... It's a cycle. The US will not last forever, sooner or later we will be run out or assimilated by some other people. Life is not static. Things change and people naturally migrate.

    July 3, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. john

    Rome wasn't built in a day, but it sure fell pretty fast.

    July 3, 2010 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. rebekka

    Aha! Look for the treasure map on the back ~ Maybe National Treasure wasn't so far-fetched!

    July 3, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
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