Declaration of Independence May Have a Typo

By CNN , Joe Gullo

Published 07/04 2014 11:44AM

Updated 07/04 2014 12:38PM

WASHINGTON - The Declaration of Independence is one of the most iconic documents in our nation's history.

Did you know there might be a pretty significant typo smack in the middle of it?

The issue is with one of the most famous lines in the entire declaration, "they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

According to Danielle allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., that period in the 1823 copperplate, long presumed to be a precise copy of the declaration of independence, should not be a period at all. It should be a comma.

What may not seem like a huge change may alter how we interpret the document's meaning.

Allen says the period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

But swap it out for a comma, and the thrust of the sentence changes to underscore the importance of government in securing those rights.

Refer to the original document you say? Not so fast, because this is what the original looks like, due poor preservation techniques during the 19th century.

However there is one clue, Thomas Jefferson's draft uses a semicolon, not a period.

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