Thomas Jefferson was generous or vain or fair-minded enough to include in his memoirs the Declaration of Independence as he wrote it (right here in Philadelphia, in a house at Seventh and Market Streets), allowing readers to compare Jefferson's words with the changes made by the committee that had charged him with the job.
Here's an example:
"The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which appears no solitary act to contradict the uniform tenor or the rest, but all have the direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood."Final version:
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."The committee substituted "repeated" for "unremitting," thereby saving readers a bit of breath. It boiled down "among which appears no solitary act to contradict the uniform tenor or the rest, but all have" to "all having," thus concealing from the world a clue that, for all his reputation as a scholar, architect, scientist, and philosopher, Jefferson trained as a lawyer. It excised "for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood" and made the last sentence far more vigorous.
So, along with Jefferson, let the world honor Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and, especially, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for the copy editing that made a momentous document even better.
"Whereas the preamble [to Virginia's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom] declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the words `Jesus Christ,' so that it should read, `a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;' the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."
© Peter Rozovsky 2011