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The Declaration of Independence Hits the Road

In 1776, riders on horseback raced from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to villages across colonial America. Each rider carried a copy of one of the most famous documents ever written—the Declaration of Independence. The riders spread the word about the Declaration. Two hundred and twenty-five years later, one of the original copies of the Declaration again traveled to communities across the country.

Today's Tour

The copy of the Declaration of Independence was shown at four presidential libraries, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and 25 cities.

The copy of the Declaration that toured the United States was found in 1989. A flea market shopper found it tucked in back of a framed painting he had bought. A flea market has nothing to do with fleas. It is a market, often outdoors, at which used goods or antiques are sold. The shopper sold the copy last year for more than $8 million.

Independence!

The story of the Declaration began in 1775. At that time, Great Britain governed the American colonies. People in the 13 colonies were thinking about forming their own nation.

The Americans formed a Continental Congress in May 1775 in Philadelphia to figure out what to do. Each American colony sent delegates to the Congress. A delegate is a person who speaks for someone else or for a group of people.

The delegates asked five people, including Thomas Jefferson, to write a declaration. This document would tell King George III of England why Americans wanted independence. The delegates approved the final version of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. A printer made about 200 copies of it.

Self-Evident Truths

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote one of the most famous lines in history. These words state the principles that still guide the United States.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident [not needing explanation], that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed [given] by their Creator with certain unalienable [cannot be taken away] Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Almost a century after Jefferson wrote those words, President Abraham Lincoln spoke about the importance of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration not only gave liberty “to the people of this country but, I hope, to all the world,” Lincoln said.