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Please Tell Nicolas Cage Researchers Found Another Declaration of Independence

The document was discovered in England and is thought to be the only other handwritten copy that exists.
Photo via Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff

Last week, two Harvard researchers released the findings of a monumental, National Treasure–worthy discovery—the pair had located the only other handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence known to exist, the Harvard Gazette reports.

Researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen made the discovery back in 2015, when Sneff saw an archival office in West Sussex, England, had a listing of a "Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America," on parchment. After nearly two years of pouring over the document, they determined it's a copy of the original 1776 declaration (the one kept in the National Archives) but written sometime in the 1780s.


The second copy, which Sneff and Allen have named the Sussex Declaration, contains a few key features that differentiate it from the original. Both documents are the same size, but the Sussex document is oriented horizontally, rather than vertically. All 56 signatures are also there, but they're all the same size and not separated by state. The original Matlack Declaration had signatures of all different sizes and were arranged by the state that signee was representing. According to the researchers, the signatures on the Sussex document signify that it came from a unified group of people, instead of a collection of separate states.

"This parchment manuscript illuminates in one stroke how the Federalists and anti-Federalists debated the question of whether the new republic was founded on the authority of a single, united sovereign people or on the authority of 13 separate state governments," Allen said.

According to Gizmodo, Allen and Sneff aren't sure how the document got all the way to England, but they believe it was originally drafted in the States and commissioned by prominent nationalist James Wilson. It then wound up in the hands of Charles Lennox, an English duke who supported American independence.

Now, having concluded the document came from a tumultuous period in American history, Allen and Sneff want to find out more about Lennox and uncover why he wanted the document.

"Victory was not sweet [after the Revolutionary War]," Allen said. "There was financial disaster, the Articles of Confederation were not working… so the 1780s were a period of great instability, despite victory. And this parchment belongs to that decade."