BYU graduate may have found draft of U.S. Constitution

Published: Saturday, Feb. 6 2010 12:28 p.m. MST

society's records, the page Toler believes is a third draft of the

Constitution has been filed away in a box marked simply "James Wilson:

Volume Two" since at least 1970. Toler suspects the document has been

in that box since it was first transcribed by Yale scholar Max Farrand

in 1911.

"It was just sitting there, forgotten," Toler said.

According

to Farrand's writings, in 1911, he connected the three-paragraph

introduction on the back of Wilson's first draft to a document titled

"The Continuation of the Scheme," Toler said. The paper Toler found is

also called "The Continuation of the Scheme."

She doesn't believe it's a coincidence.

Not everyone, however, is as excited.

"I'm

pretty skeptical," said Andrew Shankman, an associate professor of

history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, shortly after examining

the paper. "It doesn't appear to fit with the known drafts of the

Constitution."

Specifically, he

said, the numbering system between the three-paragraph fragment and

"The Continuation of the Scheme" don't seem to match up, he said. The

style is less formal than Wilson's other drafts.

Toler

acknowledged the inconsistent style between drafts but attributed the

differences to a "more relaxed, scatterbrained" Wilson, she said.

"This

is significant because James Wilson was always polished in front of

others," Toler said. "To me, the way these documents were written

demonstrates that he worked alone on this project for some time. These

are his raw thoughts."

As of

Thursday, Shankman was the only established scholar who had evaluated

Toler's claims. The historical society is in the process of obtaining a

more thorough evaluation.

Lee

Arnold, senior director of the library and collections at the

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, denied that the document had ever

been lost. It was never recognized as a legitimate draft of the

Constitution, he said, so it was kept in a file of Wilson's notes from

the Constitutional Convention.

"It was right where it should have been," he said. "In a box labeled 'James Wilson.'"


E-mail: estuart@desnews.com

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