Entertainment & Arts

British Library to show Declaration of Independence

Bill of Rights Image copyright Courtesy of the British Library
Image caption The Bill of Rights on loan is one of 14 original copies, of which 12 survive

Historic US documents the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence will be on display in the UK for the first time next year.

They are being lent to the British Library for its exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

The Declaration, dated 1776, established the separation of America from Great Britain.

The 1789 bill first laid out the constitutional rights of the US people and the limits on government power.

The Declaration of Independence will be on loan from the New York Public Library, while the Bill of Rights is normally housed in the US National Archives.

Claire Breay, curator of the library's exhibition, said: "We're absolutely delighted that both the US National Archives and New York Public Library have generously agreed to lend these exceptionally important documents to the British Library.

Image copyright Courtesy of the British Library
Image caption The Declaration of Independence paved the way to forming today's American Constitution

"Our exhibition next year will provide a unique opportunity to see them displayed with our two original 1215 Magna Carta documents, from which they drew some of their core principles."

The text of the Declaration was copied down by former President Thomas Jefferson after changes had been made to a draft version by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

'Bedrock of society'

The document also shows the passages that went on to be removed in Congress, most notably President Jefferson's lengthy condemnation of slavery.

The Bill of Rights on loan is one of 14 original copies of the document, of which 12 are known to survive. It shows its certificate of ratification, attached before being sent to the federal government.

Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, said: "The bedrock of our modern-day society is rooted in the historic documents of the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights - the result of brave citizens who understood the importance of change and reform."

The US documents can trace constitutional influences back to the Magna Carta, which was issued in 1215 by King John of England.

The Magna Carta established for the first time that the king was subject to the law, not above it, and set out a new political order.

The British Library exhibition will follow the evolution of the Magna Carta from its 1215 roots as a medieval peace treaty to a global statement against the arbitrary use of power.

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy runs from 13 March - 1 September 2015 at the British Library in London.

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