Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, 8 July 1776

To Richard Henry Lee

Philadelphia July 8th. 1776

Dr Sir

For news I refer you to your brother who writes on that head. I enclose you a copy of the declaration of independence as agreed to by the House, and also, as originally framed. You will judge whether it is the better or worse for the Critics. I shall return to Virginia after the 11th of August. I wish my successor may be certain to Come before that time, in that case, I shall hope to see you and Mr. Wythe in Convention, that the business of Government, which is of everlasting Concern, may receive your aid. Adieu, and beleive me to be Your friend & Servant,

Thomas Jefferson

Original missing. Text from Tr (Vi-Hi); endorsed “True Copy Francis Barclay” and with address leaf reading: “To Richard Henry Lee Esqr. at Chantilly Virginia to be left at Fredericksburg for the Westmoreland rider.” Also endorsed on address leaf in hand of Henry Lee: “Copy of Jefferson’s draft of Independence & letter.” This was perhaps the earliest copy made of TJ’s letter and draft of the Declaration, being made early in the nineteenth century. For an account of this and other copies, see Boyd, Declaration of Independence, 1945, p. 42–3. Accompanying this transcript is a transcript, also in Barclay’s handwriting, of the copy of the Declaration that TJ sent to R. H. Lee; both are in the Lee-Ludwell papers given to the Virginia Historical Society by Cassius F. Lee, Jr., who had also, at one time, owned the copies of the Declaration and of TJ’s draft of a constitution for Virginia that were sent to George Wythe. Several other transcripts are extant, the letter having acquired accidental notoriety through Timothy Pickering’s interest in the text of the Declaration of Independence that accompanied it and that was later presented to the American Philosophical Society; see Boyd, Declaration of Independence, 1945, p. 41–3.

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