February 27, 2009

Va. collector wins title to Declaration

Maine has no claim to an early copy of the Declaration of Independence because it is not an official document, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The decision leaves the ownership of the copy with Richard Adams, a Virginia collector.

The copy was one of those made by order of the Massachusetts Executive Council in 1776. The council ordered that the copies be delivered to ministers throughout Massachusetts -- Massachusetts then included the future state of Maine -- to be read to their congregations and to be transcribed by town clerks into their record books.

The justices rejected Maine's argument that the copy is an official government document that had been wrongfully appropriated from the town of Wiscasset. It was discovered in 1995 in the home of a daughter of a former Wiscasset clerk and eventually sold to a London dealer who sold it to Adams for $475,000.

The court found that the official public record of the Declaration was a copy made by Edmund Bridge, the town clerk in Pownalborough, the future Wiscasset, in 1776, and not the printed document.