Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Discovered in the archives

Early draft of the Constitution found in Philadelphia

Where better to find a draft of the Constitution, anyway? Researcher Lorianne Updike Toler, working with the James Wilson papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, managed to piece together some long-separated papers and restore the draft.

Wilson, a Scottish-trained lawyer, was one of the more active members of the Philadelphia Convention and, as a member of the Committee of Detail that refined the final language - the language that scholars and justices squeeze for every last drop of nuance and guidance - had a profound influence on the Constitution's final form. It is no accident that drafts of the document would be in his hand.

Wilson's two previously-known drafts had been separated from his papers a long time ago, without realizing that the upside-down writing of "We the People", which appeared on the pages of the second, actually represented the beginning of a new draft. The following pages, sundered from their opening, weren't readily recognized as another complete version of the Constitution and remained with the rest of Wilson's papers, until Toler identified their relation.

[Via the Archives Listserv]

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