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CHICHESTER, England (CBSMiami) — Harvard researchers have found a priceless piece of American history in England.  They discovered a handwritten parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence.

One historian called it the discovery of a life time, a priceless handwritten parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The only one like it is the 1776 copy kept under glass at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

“We certainly weren’t looking for a copy of the Declaration like this,” said Harvard Researcher Emily Sneff.

Sneff and Harvard Professor Danielle Allen came upon it while searching the globe for every known copy of the Declaration.

“Being able to go to West Essex and hold this parchment in our hands, to look at it closely was just extraordinary.”

They believe it was penned in America in the 1780’s, probably commissioned by James Wilson.

The signatures are in no particular order, rather than listed by state, as in the 1776 copy.

“It goes to the heart of the American political order,” said Professor Allen. “Does the American political order rest on a single national people or on treaties among several states?”

The researchers believe the document originally belonged to the Duke of Richmond, known as the ‘Radical Duke,’ for the support he gave to American revolutionaries.

It was handed down over generations of Dukes, until a local man handed it into the records office in the 1950’s.

CBS News was told British Library will be conducting a series of tests over the summer to determine its authenticity.  And while people are welcome to come have a look if they want, there are no intentions of putting this Declaration of Independence on display.


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