WASHINGTON - Preservation scientists at the Library of Congress have discovered that Thomas Jefferson, even in the act of declaring independence from England, had trouble breaking free from monarchial rule.
In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the word "subjects" when he referred to the American public. He then erased that word and replaced it with "citizens," a term he used frequently throughout the final draft.
The Library released news of the struck word for the first time on Friday.
Fenalla France, a research chemist at the Library, said her lab made the discovery last year by using hyperspectral imaging, using a high-resolution digital camera that compiles a series of images to highlight layers of a document.
In switching from "subjects" to "citizens," France said it appears Jefferson used his hand to wipe the word out while the ink was still wet. A distinct brown smudge is apparent on the paper, although the word "subjects" is not legible without the help of the digital technology.
France called the findings "spine-tingling."
James Billington, librarian of Congress, said "It shows the progress of his mind. This was a decisive moment. ... We recovered a magic moment that was otherwise lost to history."