- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2014

As the nation celebrates Independence Day, there is a debate brewing over a few squiggles on parchment that could change the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.

The New York Times reported that the National Archives and Records Administration recorded a period after Thomas Jefferson’s list of self-evident truths that ends with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But the original, badly faded document does not seem to have the period, said Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

The result is that the list of truths is set apart from what comes next: the role of government in securing those rights.

“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen told The Times. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

Scholars are taking the argument seriously, The Times said.

PHOTOS: The ugliest political figures in modern history

“Are the parts about the importance of government part of one cumulative argument, or — as Americans have tended to read the document — subordinate to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’?” Jack Rakove, a member of the National Archives’ Founding Fathers Advisory Committee, told The Times. “You could make the argument without the punctuation, but clarifying it would help.”

The period seems to appear in early drafts and copies of the declaration, but not others, furthering the debate.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide