Reading the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence.

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National Archives
King George III i i

hide captionIt turns out King George III didn't keep a diary after all.

National Archives, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
King George III

It turns out King George III didn't keep a diary after all.

National Archives, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

About the Music

The music for this year's reading is "Dawn at Yorktown" by Eric Weinberg.

Nineteen years ago, Morning Edition launched what has become an Independence Day tradition: hosts, reporters, newscasters and commentators reading the Declaration of Independence. This year, we also correct a historic footnote.

A Historic Misquote

Those of you with a keen ear may have noticed that this year our reading of the Declaration of Independence has a different ending. In the past we've said that "on July 4th, 1776, George III, king of England, wrote in his diary, 'Nothing of importance happened today.'"

Turns out we were taken in by an old historic myth.

"King George III never kept a diary," says Arnold Hunt, curator of historical manuscripts at the British Library. "The quote is a variation of another well-known story from the French revolution," he says.

On July 14, 1789 — the date of the storming of the Bastille — Louis XVI of France wrote in his diary "rien (nothing)." Hunt says Louis was referring to a hunting trip where he came back empty-handed.

Over the years, the story found its way into the folklore of George III and into our radio piece ... until now. We have declared our independence from this historic misquote.

The Declaration of Independence

Below is the original text of the Declaration of Independence, alongside photos of the NPR staff members and contributors who performed the reading.

Purchase Featured Music

The Declaration in Sound

by Various Artists

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