February 27, 2009

Va. High Court: Copy of Declaration of Independence Created in 1776 is Not a Public Record
— Gabriel Malor

The decision was issued this morning (PDF). It really is an extraordinary story.

In July 1776, after the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, each of the colonial delegations was charged with informing its residents about the colonies’ decision to separate from England. The Massachusetts Executive Council (the Executive Council), an entity that shared governing responsibility with the Massachusetts legislature, issued an order directing that copies of the Declaration be printed and delivered to the ministers of all churches in Massachusetts so that the document could be read to the ministers’ congregations....Such copies of documents intended for widespread distribution were commonly referred to as “broadsides.”

...The broadsides also included the Executive Council’s additional order requiring that the ministers, after reading aloud the Declaration, deliver the broadsides to the town clerks. The order directed the town clerks to record the Declaration’s text in their respective town record books “to remain as a perpetual Memorial thereof.” Neither the Executive Council’s order nor any other law directed the town clerks regarding the proper disposition of the broadsides after their contents were transcribed in the town record books.

So the broadside in question simply disappeared for over two hundred years. Eventually it was discovered in the papers of the deceased town clerk of Wiscasset, Maine (formerly Pownalborough, Massachusetts) by an auctioneer hired by the clerk's daughter's estate. It then passed through a few hands until Richard Adams, a Virginia resident and the defendant in this case, purchased the the broadside for $475,000.

Somehow the State of Maine got wind of the transaction and the provenance of the broadside and sued Adams for its return. They said it was a public record owned by the town. Adams, of course, resisted.

What do you think? Should Adams keep it or does it go back to the state? Well, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that the broadside was not a public record because it was not created by a public officer (it was created by a private printer at the direction of the Massachusetts Executive Council) and it wasn't maintained like a public record (because the town clerk had copied the text into the town records book "as a perpetual Memorial thereof”).

Adams gets to keep the broadside.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 05:44 PM | Comments (83)
Post contains 406 words, total size 3 kb.

1 It was just a copy anyway. Besides, think of all the tax revenue the sale of that broadside generated...

Posted by: CoolCzech at February 27, 2009 05:49 PM (iafWn)

2 The document is kind of out-of-date now anyway!

Posted by: Kasper Hauser at February 27, 2009 05:51 PM (Ap3Ee)

3 Send it to Obama.........he should read it.

Posted by: Jubal Anderson Early at February 27, 2009 05:53 PM (krKUp)

4 Is that the one with "Four score and seven..." ?

Posted by: eman at February 27, 2009 05:56 PM (Ee8qq)

5 @CoolCzech The state of Maine just wants the broadside as well as the tax revenue they already got, I bet.

Posted by: Last Minute Moron at February 27, 2009 05:59 PM (qi0/j)

6 Maybe the State of Maine can ask Richard Adams for a verifiable, certified copy in its stead. They could ask the State of Hawaii how such documents are done.

Posted by: AnonymousDrivel at February 27, 2009 06:01 PM (swuwV)

7 It and all its cousins will be toilet paper soon enough anyway.  Recyclable of course.

Posted by: seguin at February 27, 2009 06:10 PM (fOm1P)

8 Wow, Maine got land from Mass? The only thing I got from Mass was taxes and a case of crabs.

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:11 PM (Zx/xb)

9 Maine got told to suck it and go home, and rightly so. Fucking lobster fucking potato molesting moose fuckers.

Posted by: eman at February 27, 2009 06:12 PM (Ee8qq)

10 Maine used to be part of Mass.

Posted by: eman at February 27, 2009 06:12 PM (Ee8qq)

11

I like how it was to be read aloud in all churches.

"In God we Trust". "Seperation from curch and State" ....Not Freedom FROM Religion.

 

Fuck you Muchael Newdow

 

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:15 PM (Zx/xb)

12 Except for SLUBLOG, the whole state of Maine are the bastard children of Fwench and Scandis.

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:18 PM (Zx/xb)

13 Markie Marxist sez:  "That's awful!  The government is supposed to screw private citizens out of private property at every opportunity!  He should have to give it back."

Posted by: Chas at February 27, 2009 06:19 PM (81ekr)

14 Should Adams keep it or does it go back to the state?

Your letting your closet liberalism slip again, Gabe. The controversy is what, exactly? That church property are state documents? Ugh. Where do you even begin with that rancid pile?

Posted by: Vercingetorix at February 27, 2009 06:21 PM (iTDJo)

15 Except for SLUBLOG, the whole state of Maine are the bastard children of Fwench and Scandis.

Damn straight. :-)

The state was just looking for a chance to own the document.  Stupid waste of my tax money.

But what else is new?

Posted by: Slublog at February 27, 2009 06:22 PM (/Rn7e)

16 that's Mucous Newdow, MD, Esq to you, sir

Posted by: Frank G at February 27, 2009 06:23 PM (Aaspy)

17 "Maine used to be part of Mass."

Well, the less Mass., the better.

Posted by: Representative Self-Sacrificing Energy (R, MA) at February 27, 2009 06:24 PM (swuwV)

18

Obama would like it.  It's pre-13th Amendment so no pesky laws forbidding involuntary servititude.  You know, you do the work while your money goes to somebody else?

Posted by: Crusty at February 27, 2009 06:25 PM (qzgbP)

19 Don't let Maine have it! It will end up at Big Al's.

Posted by: sickinmass at February 27, 2009 06:25 PM (/i4dU)

20 Hey did anyone notice that (I think it was TCM) ran "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" this evening?  Coincidence? Hmmm.

Posted by: katya at February 27, 2009 06:31 PM (oRJZj)

21 AMC ran 'Katya Goes to Wichita'. ..
it was great!

Posted by: sickinmass at February 27, 2009 06:36 PM (/i4dU)

22

"Good evening... as a duly appointed representative of the city, county and state of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place or origin, or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension."

Venkman: "That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Ray."

Posted by: ErikW at February 27, 2009 06:37 PM (hKtiw)

23 I didn't go to Wichita but I was within 60 miles of it today!  But I did go to Roswell (obviously this was a big deal for me).

Posted by: katya at February 27, 2009 06:40 PM (oRJZj)

24 I just saw a commercial for a government program offering free wireless service to po folk. I guess its not a unicorn but when the fuck did a cell phone become some kind of basic human right? We are so fucked.

Posted by: Michael Moore's bleeding anus at February 27, 2009 06:42 PM (fkgyi)

25 On the other hand, maybe we should go down there and grab that paperwork off them Rebs? 'Cuz we can!!

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:42 PM (Zx/xb)

26 RINO's Snow and Collins are from Maine.

Fuck Maine...give it to Canada.

Posted by: torabora at February 27, 2009 06:43 PM (Tou3T)

27 Collins and Snowe would only wipe their skanky pooters with it. Let Johnny Reb have it.

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:45 PM (Zx/xb)

28 Slub, how's your meth lab perking up there these days?

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 06:45 PM (Zx/xb)

29

I just saw a commercial for a government program offering free wireless service to po folk. I guess its not a unicorn but when the fuck did a cell phone become some kind of basic human right?

Man, that really ticks me off.  I mean some of those po folks put cell phones over buying groceries.  You seen the clothes those po folks wear?  They didn't buy 'em at Wal Mart and they didn't get 'em off the clearance rack.  Their kids dress a lot better than my kids do!  Crap!

Posted by: katya at February 27, 2009 06:46 PM (oRJZj)

30 Watch out, the ACLU might retro-actively sue the Sates/Colonies that had the temerity to have government documents read in a church, especially BEFORE the town bureaucrats did! The nerve!

Posted by: Luca Brasi at February 27, 2009 06:48 PM (iwxwL)

31 It is a national treasure, and it's discovery should have been revealed to the national archives.  If history and provenance were proven, then the document itself automaticaly belongs to the nation, and the national archives, and the compensation should be fought out in the courts.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at February 27, 2009 06:48 PM (ul7te)

32 The "po folks" of the USA should take a trip to Calcutta, or Darfur, to see what the fuck actual poverty and hunger looks like.

Posted by: Luca Brasi at February 27, 2009 06:49 PM (iwxwL)

33 "Fuck Maine...give it to Canada."

Hey! We're trying to move Right, ya hoser. Keep your liberal-fellating, socialist-wannabes to yourself, eh.

Posted by: Canada at February 27, 2009 06:50 PM (swuwV)

34 and the individual who hid the discovery, if the provenance was valid, should be prosecuted for "plunder" I think is the term for not initialy offering it to the Archives.

It's all of our history, and the discoverer will be compensated, but it is for US to own, because it is OUR history.

Just ask the lefty lib douche who is pushing for easy compensation towards trial lawyers about the fights the Fed has had to wage in the courts about indian burial property.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at February 27, 2009 06:51 PM (ul7te)

35 I like Maine, hate massachussetts.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at February 27, 2009 06:52 PM (ul7te)

36 The document is kind of out-of-date now anyway!

Reads very fresh to me. Words to live by.

Posted by: lmg at February 27, 2009 06:54 PM (A/vgC)

37

It took 19 pages to say "possession is 9/10th's of the law". The other 1/10th is "finders keepers".

I'm no lawyer, and btw the State Bird of Maine is the mosquito.

Posted by: solitary knight at February 27, 2009 06:59 PM (+v26+)

38

The only thing white trash will pay before their cell phone bill is pay per view "wrestling".

I work for a major telecom(V), trust me on this.

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 07:00 PM (Zx/xb)

39 This has happened at least twice before http://www.snopes.com/luck/declare.asp There are probably more of these out there

Posted by: Jubal Anderson Early at February 27, 2009 07:01 PM (krKUp)

40 We could use a broadside declaring our independence from Washington, D.C.

Soon to be renamed Obama, D.C.

Posted by: Vinnie at February 27, 2009 07:01 PM (idf83)

41 So, just who is supposed to pay for their free phone service?  Huh?  Who?

Posted by: katya at February 27, 2009 07:02 PM (oRJZj)

Posted by: Martha Stewart at February 27, 2009 07:07 PM (Tou3T)

43 Martha will.

Posted by: joe biden at February 27, 2009 07:08 PM (Tou3T)

44 I work at a Jr College...most students are poor. Nearly all have cell phones.

I don't. Fuck cell phones.

Posted by: torabora at February 27, 2009 07:11 PM (Tou3T)

45 Katya, you and I pay for their land line. Check your bill. It was introduced at the turn of the last century as the "Rural Electricification Act". Another tax that never went away. I forget the term that is used now, but it is an odd number like 14 cents(?).

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 07:11 PM (Zx/xb)

46 katya,
got mirror?

Posted by: sickinmass at February 27, 2009 07:11 PM (/i4dU)

47 Yeah, that's what I thought.  Dips.

Posted by: katya at February 27, 2009 07:12 PM (oRJZj)

48

Broadsides were not meant to be permanent records. From the American-language Merriam-Webster online dictionary: "1 a (1): a sizable sheet of paper printed on one side (2): a sheet printed on one or both sides and folded b: something (as a ballad) printed on a broadside." And presumably if they were the property of the state, then the state would have requested their return or had officers of the state keep them in their custody.

And on the American Antiques Roadshow an original copy of the Declaration of Independence was found as the backing to a nondescript painting, and it wasn't the property of the state (federal or state), so why should this be?

And your tax dollars are sure working at PBS--one of their biggest finds ever and all they have at the site about it is discussing how after "one of the original Declarations of Independence that had been discovered hidden behind a painting in a flea market frame sold for $8.1 million at auction," they were flooded with "I've got one of those" calls that were either outright frauds or were 1876 centennial printings.

Posted by: andycanuck at February 27, 2009 07:17 PM (TpHGM)

49

"Va. High Court: Copy of Declaration of Independence Created in 1776 is Not a Public Record"

that's a misleading title, the document was given to the church, then the town clerk with no instruction by the government on how to handle the document afterwards...

i'm gonna go with the idea that the individual retains the power of ownership because the State was not specifically given that power by law.

(i'm not a lawyer, but often play one in my own mind)

Posted by: shoey at February 27, 2009 07:25 PM (RxUMK)

50 We own your asses Maine. Suck it.

Posted by: Timothy Watson (from Virginia) at February 27, 2009 07:30 PM (u2aRf)

51

"Not Freedom FROM Religion."

Just curious, does that mean I'll face some sanction if I'm not a member of a "state approved" religion.

Posted by: gebrauchshund at February 27, 2009 07:44 PM (ACDor)

52 The state should buy it from this guy. 

Posted by: silly at February 27, 2009 07:47 PM (zplc6)

53 No, Moron, that was a reference to all the asshole offended by manger scenes. Se also Michael Newdow.

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 07:49 PM (Zx/xb)

54

y'all are gonna hate me for this:

Jindal didn't tell the whole truth (bad on him) and he admitted it (good on him) the problem is that he embellished the story to make himself look better, not a huge sin to be sure, but he's in line for seat at the Big table and i expect and demand better (of both myself and my leaders), is this a deal breaker for me, no of course not, but it does nothing to quell my notion that they are all liars and thieves

Posted by: shoey at February 27, 2009 07:54 PM (RxUMK)

55 oops, wrong thread

Posted by: shoey at February 27, 2009 07:55 PM (RxUMK)

56 Massachusetts isn't using it anymore. I say give it to Maine...on one condition: they do what it says.

Posted by: A Farmer at February 27, 2009 07:59 PM (7FgWm)

57

 

Fascinating post. Top notch. Rivetting. Exceptional insight.

A person only has to read a post like this and know they're getting the good oil - as opposed to the bad oil.

So in summation I would like to thank Gayb for posting this 'tickety boo' post.

Thank you.

 

 

Posted by: FREE PALESTAIN! at February 27, 2009 08:18 PM (lrSci)

58 WTF???

Posted by: hutch1200 at February 27, 2009 08:32 PM (wIcUN)

59

Yeah, even being a certified moron I get the reference, and I get tired of the whiney little bitches like Newdow too. Too many people labor under the delusion that "freedom from religion" means they will never be confronted with anyone else's religious beliefs. Rather than meaning they are free to not follow any religion if they so choose.

But keep in mind, the idea of "render unto Caesar" and separation of church and state, was to prevent the church from being corrupted by the corrosive effects of earthly politics.

Oh, and I like that you capitalized "Moron" in reference to me, it's like a title, like Doctor or something. Mommy would be so proud, I'll be sure to show it to her next visiting day at the women's prison.

Posted by: gebrauchshund at February 27, 2009 08:49 PM (ACDor)

60 Oh, fuck the fucking state and the fucking retards who fucking run it. It's a fucking copy, for fucking crying out loud. Is every fucking copy of the fucking Constitution fucking state fucking property?

What's the fucking cut-off date, is the fucking poster I got in fucking 3rd grade fucking state property?

Jesus fucking Christ, is a LeMat revolver part of our nation's history, and therefore property of the state? How about a Victorian house? WW1 newspaper?

What the fuck country did I wake up in this morning?

This message has been brought to you by the letter 'F', the word "fuck," and Maxwell's electromagnetic equations.

Posted by: Merovign at February 27, 2009 09:14 PM (or0jG)

61

#45 That old telephone excise tax was to pay for the Spanish-American War, not to provide telephones to the poor. It was done away with in 2006. Fiscal hawks could have offered a spirited defense of the tax: the war probably was not paid for yet.

And the Rural Electrification Act was FDR era, to extend electric service, not telephones. But I'll give you this much: they both had wires strung on poles.

 

Posted by: comatus at February 27, 2009 10:08 PM (mtQad)

62 I say we should shove the document broadside up their asses.

Posted by: Corona at February 28, 2009 01:33 AM (pI8vF)

63 @62: I'm sure Gabriel would agree. RAWR!

Posted by: Fios at February 28, 2009 02:11 AM (SsMER)

64 I would think that even if it was a public record it would fall under the category of salvage law.

Posted by: Vic at February 28, 2009 02:12 AM (f6os6)

Posted by: aaabs at February 28, 2009 02:37 AM (Oz1Ts)

66 They should have just invoked Kelo.

Posted by: nickless at February 28, 2009 02:46 AM (MMC8r)

67

They should have just invoked Kelo.

If they did that they would have to pay fair market value for it. They want it for free.

They need to invoke some kind of enviro-idiot law and take all but a small corner of it and say that they only took 95% so it wasn't a "taking".

 

Posted by: Vic at February 28, 2009 03:50 AM (f6os6)

68 Give it to Adams . . . if it goes to the state Obama will find it and just throw it in the trash.

Posted by: rplat at February 28, 2009 03:53 AM (Qrnps)

69 If Maine wants it, they can buy it.  See Kelo vs New Haven.

Posted by: ATNorth at February 28, 2009 06:25 AM (XH/G8)

70

Should Adams keep it or does it go back to the state?

He should marry it.

Posted by: Burns Slant Drilling at February 28, 2009 06:45 AM (k7SeR)

71 The government should have killed Adams and just claimed it was for the good of the "cuildren."  Then they could sell it on Craigslist.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at February 28, 2009 01:12 PM (0Qynq)

72 Sorry WP but it doesn't belong to the Archives.  The Archives already has its copy of the Declaration (the original).  This copy is just like the copy of a piece of legislation that you can buy at the nearest GPO bookstore.  It belongs to the person who paid for it.

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