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July 4th - A Celebration of Ideas... and Manuscripts

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Today is July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, a holiday on which we Americans collectively reflect on a manuscript penned several hundred years ago. The ideas set down on vellum by some of the most brilliant political philosophers of the 18th century (chief among them talented polymath Thomas Jefferson) created the framework for a government that has ensured 241 years (so far) of peace and stability (with these exceptions and this bloody exception). Naturally, it is the ideas and ideals contained within the text that we celebrate as we commemorate the birth of the U.S. But we also meditate on the physical documents which constitute the Charters of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all of which are preserved by the National Archives. 

John Trumbull's famous painting The Declaration of Independence

To understand the deep meaning to be found in seeing (and perhaps even touching or owning) original historical manuscripts, on…