British Library Will Show US Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence Photo: Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

Yet another reason to celebrate America’s greatness on July 4th?

The British Library has graciously (and, we might add, surprisingly) struck an agreement with the New York Public Library to display the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (the latter is normally housed at the US National Archives) for an exhibition next year “Magna Carta: Law, Liberty Legacy,” the BBC reports.

The loan marks the first time that the Declaration, which is dated 1776 and established the separation of the US from England, has ever been shown in the UK. The 1789 Bill of Rights first laid out the constitutional rights of American citizens as well as limits on government power.

Claire Breay, the British Library curator behind the exhibition, said “We’re absolutely delighted that both the US National Archives and New York Public Library have generously agreed to lend these exceptionally important documents to the British Library.” Breay said the exhibition is “a unique opportunity to see them displayed with our two original Magna Carta documents, from which they drew some of their core principles.”

The text of the Declaration was copied down by Thomas Jefferson after changes to a version drafted by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. It also shows passages that were later removed by Congress, particularly Jefferson’s denouncement of slavery. The Bill of Rights on loan is one of 14 original copies of the document, 12 of which have survived to this day.

The British Library exhibition will follow the evolution of the Magna Carta from its 1215 origins as a medieval peace treaty to a broad statement condemning the arbitrary use of power, according to the BBC report.

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