Thomas Jefferson a closet royalist? Hardly

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Quill pen in hand, Thomas Jefferson invited the King's noose when he set out to write what his fellow founders at first thought would be a mundane legal document: a declaration of independence from the British crown.

But despite a preamble that became a paean to individual liberty that has rivaled the Magna Carta in the breadth of its global impact, Mr. Jefferson apparently committed a slip of the pen.

To usher in the Fourth of July weekend, the Library of Congress revealed hard evidence from high-resolution spectral imaging that Jefferson, on the third page of a "rough draught," wiped the word "subjects" off with his hand and meticulously etched the word "citizens" on top – perhaps the kind of brain-freeze that a modern writer quickly hits delete to send into the digital ether, but that Jefferson struggled mightily to erase in a section on British abuses of the Colonists....

The philosophical difference between "subjects" and "citizens" indeed defined the Declaration of Independence, making the correction that much more intriguing to historians.

"It's almost like we can see him write 'subjects' and then quickly decide that's not what he wanted to say at all, that he didn't even want a record of it," said Library of Congress preservation director Dianne van der Reyden on Friday. "Really, it sends chills down the spine."...

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