Tuesday, July 3, 2018

In the Room Where It Happened

As an editor I have a soft spot in my heart every Independence Day for one Thomas Jefferson.  The 33-year old delegate from Virginia was asked in the summer of 1776, to bang out a quick paper on, oh, Everything America Stands For based on pure conjecture.  “And, yo, Tommy, we need it by Friday,” was likely the sum total of his instructions. So Jefferson secludes himself in the second-floor room of the two-room apartment pictured above (a ‘must see’ if you come for a visit) located in a building on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.  He rolls up his sleeves…it was hot…fills up his inkwell, sends his manservant Bob (true!) down to the corner for a couple of cheesesteak hoagies with fried onions and goes to work. (That last part is still undocumented historically speaking, but his rough draft does show some unexplained grease stains.)
A copy of that rough draft shows how he agonized over every word making it not just a legally viable document but one of the great works of prose in the english language. Continue Reading

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