Global law firm White & Case LLP has announced its sponsorship of the loan of two major US documents – the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights – to the British Library.
The works, which will be displayed in the UK for the first time, will be exhibited alongside two copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta as part of the Library’s Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, which will run from 13 March – 1 September 2015.
"We are pleased to support this historic exhibition which will bring together the original copies of these major documents for the first time," said Oliver Brettle, a member of White & Case's executive committee. "These important documents provided a foundation for the rule of law as we know it in the US and UK today."
Both the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were influenced by Magna Carta, which was issued in 1215 by King John. It is thought that the 40 shires in existence at the time were each sent a copy of Magna Carta, which established for the first time that the king was subject to the law, not above it, and set out a new political order. Only four copies of the original document are known to survive.
The Declaration of Independence is the text that Thomas Jefferson copied in his own hand, incorporating the changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to a draft version. Jefferson's document also indicates the passages subsequently excised in Congress, notably his lengthy condemnation of slavery. The Declaration established the separation of America from Great Britain, and paved the way for the drafting of the American Constitution. The document is being loaned by the New York Public Library.
The Bill of Rights is being loaned by the US National Archives and is one of the 14 original copies of the document produced in 1789, of which 12 are known to survive. The copy that will be on display in the UK was sent to Delaware where a certificate of ratification was attached before its return to the federal government. The amendments to the Constitution proposed in the document were written by a clerk in the House of Representatives on a single sheet of parchment and contain clauses guaranteeing Americans a number of personal freedoms and limiting the power of government.
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