Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forgotten Document Linked to Fight for Independence

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forgotten Document Linked to Fight for Independence

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- It was lying in a drawer in the attic, a 12-page document that was not just forgotten but misfiled. Somehow it had made its way into a folder with colonial-era doctor's bills that someone in the 1970s decreed were worthless and should be thrown away.

Luckily, no one did. For when Emilie Gruchow opened the folder last summer and separated it from the doctor's bills, she recognized it as a one-of-a-kind document.

Ms. Gruchow, an archivist at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, was an intern at the museum when she made her discovery. The mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan in New York City, served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War.

She realized the document was the draft of an urgent plea for reconciliation from the Continental Congress. It was addressed to the people of Britain, not King George III and his government, and began by mentioning "the tender ties which bind us to each other" and "the glorious achievements of our common ancestors."

That was followed by a long list of complaints about the infringement of colonists' rights, the restrictions on trade and the "rigorous acts of oppression which are daily exercised in the Town of Boston."

"That once populous, flourishing, commercial Town is now Garrisoned by an army sent not to protect, but to enslave its inhabitants," the document said.

Until Ms. Gruchow found it, only the final, printed version from July 1775 had been known to exist.

She consulted with Michael D. Hattem, a teaching fellow and research assistant on The Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale University. He analyzed the handwriting on the yellowed pages of the manuscript and did textual analysis that led to an unexpected conclusion: The document was written by Robert R. Livingston, a prominent New York jurist who had been on the fence about whether to support independence. …

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