About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Discovering the Sussex Declaration"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m very pleased that you could join us for today’s program about ”Discovering the Sussex Declaration.” Whether you are here in the theater or watching on YouTube or C-SPAN, we’re glad you could come.

Before we get started, I want to tell you about two other programs coming up this week and next.

Tomorrow, from 10:30 a.m. until noon, several authors and illustrators will be here to talk about how they use research in their writing. You can join us in person or online. This morning session is one part of a two-day festival called “The ‘Write’ Stuff.” On Saturday, July 8, we’ll host a family research and literacy day with activities and opportunities to talk to authors.

Next Wednesday, July 12, at noon, author Sidney Blumenthal will discuss and sign his new book, Wrestling with His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1849–1856.  This is volume two of Blumenthal’s acclaimed biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, and reveals the future President’s genius as he found his voice and helped create a new political party.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Two days ago, our nation celebrated Independence Day—the 241st anniversary of the day the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and broke ties with Great Britain. Here at the National Archives we held a public reading of the Declaration and celebrated this holiday as we do every year—with music, speeches, and patriotic activities.

July 4th is our single busiest day for visitors to the National Archives Museum. On that day, more than 5,000 people come to the Rotunda to see the actual parchment document signed by delegates to the Continental Congress in 1776. (And just so you know—today’s the last day we’ve extended our museum hours to 7 o’clock.)


The parchment sheet on display upstairs—though now much faded—is the original, official version of the Declaration of Independence.

Many versions have been made since Congress approved it, most notably the Dunlap Broadside printed on paper on the night of July 4, 1776, and several facsimile reproductions made in the early 1800s.

Today we’ll hear about a copy of the Declaration of Independence recently uncovered by our two guests, Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff. This parchment document—the “Sussex Declaration”—is the same size as the original Declaration on display in the Rotunda and dates from the 1780s.

A notable feature of the Sussex Declaration is the arrangement of the signatures. They are not arranged by state delegation—as they are on our Declaration and other early versions—and Danielle and Emily will give us their theories on what this new arrangement may mean.

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It’s now my pleasure to introduce our two guest speakers this afternoon.

Danielle Allen is James Bryant Conant University Professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. She is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship, Allen is the author of several books, including Our Declaration. A 2001 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Society of American Historians. She is also a contributing columnist for the Washington Post.

Emily Sneff is research manager of the Declaration Resources Project in the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University. She is responsible for administration, research, and web content in pursuit of the project’s mission to create innovative and informative resources about the Declaration of Independence. Ms. Sneff’s background is in content development and curation. Before joining the Declaration Resources Project, she was a member of the curatorial team at the American Philosophical Society Museum for two exhibitions on Thomas Jefferson.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff.