For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence

By Alexander Tsesis | Go to book overview

11
RACIAL TENSIONS

BETWEEN MAY AND OCTOBER 1876, THE DECLARATION OF Independence was displayed at the Centennial National Exposition. The document continued to have an iconic mystique, although much of the actual parchment had become so faded as to be illegible. In August of the same year, Congress charged a commission, consisting of the secretary of the interior, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and the librarian of Congress, to restore the manuscript. The committee seems to have done lit le, other than moving it the following year from the Patent Of ce to the State Department. There the ink became further eroded because the document was displayed in a room where patrons were permitted to smoke and warm themselves by the glow of a fireplace. As of 1881, there was talk of restoration but almost paralyzing uncertainty about how that could be carried out.1

Nostalgia surrounded the charter. Almost all the signatures on it were illegible, but there were other ways of acquiring them. In 1877, autograph hawkers sold Benjamin Franklin’s signature for $14, Caesar Rodney’s for $9.50, John Hancock’s for $10. The signature of John Adams sold for $8 at an 1879 auction. There were also buyers in England, with Queen Victoria reported to have one of the finest collections of the Declaration signers’ autographs.2

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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Becoming Independent 6
  • 3 - The Nation’s Infancy 24
  • 4 - Youthful Republic 40
  • 5 - Compromising for the Sake of Expansion 57
  • 6 - Jacksonian Era Democracy 75
  • 7 - Subordination 100
  • 8 - The Unraveling Bonds of Union 129
  • 9 - Sectional Cataclysm 148
  • 10 - Reconstruction 179
  • 11 - Racial Tensions 202
  • 12 - Advancing Women’s Causes 215
  • 13 - The Changing Face of Labor 227
  • 14 - International Impact and Domestic Advance 241
  • 15 - The Declaration in a New Deal State 264
  • 16 - Independence Principles in the Civil Rights Era 283
  • 17 - Epilogue 312
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Appendix - The Declaration of Independence 321
  • Notes 327
  • Index 377
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