Charters of Freedom, 3

“Well, sir, you gave me a lot to think about last week. And here you are again. With a cat that ate the cream expression.”

“I was just pointing out the dangers of overspecialization, Rhys.”

“Well,  before you continue to school me, I’m curious about one thing.”

“Only one?”

“Heh. Others I will research. This needs the personal touch. Namely! how can a 75 year old man look so damn fit? Have you visited the Semmelweis people for a booster?”

“Not at all. Long walks, proper sleep, active curiosity,  work and play in the right ratio. And the Jennifer challenge. More than once, I thought I’d lost her for good. It was a situation I’d never faced before. Finally, I realized she had this mistaken idea I wanted her to fail so that made her try harder. In the end, we both won.”

“And look at her now.”

“Yeah! I’m glad I’m retired, I’d hate to be contesting a hostile takeover with her on the other side.

“Anyway, I bring you a mystery from nearly 30 years ago. The second known parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence.”


“Even betterer, from a database being developed from 2015, this curious entry: Chichester, England, “Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America.

“‘On parchment’ meant taking a second look, as this could be the real deal.The only other parchment specimen was in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

“Two years of study and analysis of many parameters  led to the conclusion of a 1780’s origin. But this led to even more curious facts. This version may be part of the Federalist and anti-Federalist fight about the nature of government.

“In the original Declaration, signatures were grouped by state but the state names were omitted.  This second parchment – now called the Sussex Declaration – had the signatures jumbled.”

“Why are you giving me this teaser, my friend?”

“Rhys … it will be up to you and a few others to keep the dream alive, to teach others, especially the young, what was lost.

“But enough talk of your future task. I have something to show you … at my place. Let’s go walkabout.”

“If Xae were here. she’d say, ‘Whatevs.'”

“Where is that prickly munchkin?”

“Ahaha,” Rhys broke into laughter. “So apt. But dangerous. Anyway, she’s been spending a lot of time with Adeia and Liliane. They’re trying to civilize or socialize her or something.”

“The idea of Liliane calming down someone who spent several years in the Barrens boggles the mind. Anyway … we’re here.”

Rhys, typically distracted by his thoughts, had paid no attention where they’d been going. Now, he looked up to confront the base of the majestic NH Tower.

“Follow me, Rhys. Last elevator.”

As they stepped into the car, Rhys observed a small, unmarked push button being pressed in tandem with the uppermost proper button. The ascent seemed very fast. So did the stop. The door opened and they stepped into a luxurious suite.  In the northeast corner of the main room was a massive piece of AAA plasteel, as limpid clear as though this was a hole in the wall. Rather it was a structural part of the wall.

Rhys stood there, rapt with the vista before him.

“When you’re finished gawking, Rhys, step into the study to your right. I’m thinking a Penfold shiraz cabernet has enough gravitas for the moment.”

He waited several judicious before he walked softly in. Rhys stood there, tears streaming down his face. He turned, raked his hand across his face and whispered, “How?”

The entrepreneur looked up at the  three encasements embedded in the wall.  A fourth with the four pages of the Constitution also embedded in the wall to the right, at eye level.

The ‘how’ is easy: money and patriots. The latter were around, they knew the call would come … some military, Special Forces, civilians, at least one ‘inside job’ but there was no plan. D.C. had more fires to put out than they could cope with. When the rioting got serious in ’27, everyone knew the end was nigh.

When the barbarians have breached the walls it is too late to think, “We coulda saved these documents.”

By the time the grapevine was on fire with “We can do this!” the logistics were in place: raid, transportation, security, defense and attack as necessary, and delivery to the secure new location. And a Plan B for every step. And conservators helped. As did former NASA and NIST volunteers, as well as engineers from the 2000-03 work.

This was a National Treasure but it really belongs to the world now.

Someday, the world will be mature enough to appreciate the gift.



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