One of only two parchment copies of America’s Declaration of Independence has been discovered by researchers from Harvard in a record office in West Sussex. They unearthed the manuscript – believed to date from the 1780’s – while compiling a database of every copy of the declaration kept in Britain. The only other known parchment manuscript copy is kept at the National Archives in Washington DC.
Staff at the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester had not taken a particular interest in the copy before the team from Harvard got in touch. It was made ten years after the declaration. They are now working on a valuation. It is believed that the copy came to the record office in 1956. It was given by a local man who apparently worked for a law firm representing the Dukes of Richmond.
Field Marshal Charles Lennox (1735-1806), 3rd Duke of Richmond, was known as the “radical duke” for his support for the American colonists’ rebellion. He also supported a policy of concession in Ireland and held advanced views on parliamentary reform. It is thought that he may have originally brought the manuscript to Britain. The record office is now working with the university as well as historians at the British Library and the American Library of Congress to carry out further tests on the manuscript.