file under — proof of a conspiracy maybe

So apparently there’s a handprint located at the bottom left portion of one of the most sacred, hallowed documents in the history of freedom.

Image courtesy of CNN #thankscnn

I couldn’t believe this when I first heard about it because you would think this being the document that basically birthed America and freedom and bald eagle babies (bald eaglets???), it would be very well looked at y’know? And I would hope people who have working eyes and working optical nerves looking at this document in close proximity would certainly notice THE GIANT HANDPRINT IN THE CORNER. Or maybe they were too distracted by all the words Thomas “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Plagarism” Jefferson didn’t write by himself or by frickin’ John Hancock and his frickin’ signature or something. I mean, in their defense, when I personally saw the document myself when I visited the National Archives, I barely got a glimpse of it before several families behind me couldn’t wait any longer to look at a lame parchment paper under like twenty inches of bulletproof glass (also, the plotpoints of National Treasure duly considered, who would shoot a piece of paper??? Unless it was some disgruntled rock seeking vengeance maybe) and subtly (read: aggressively) pushed me aside. So yeah, there was no appropriate time for me to put my face against the glass, inadvertently trip the alarm system, notice the handprint, and immediately get tackled by security guards.

— The Imagined Confrontation —
Me [out of breath]: “No! No! Please, I just wanted to see the handprint!”
Kind Security Guard, Tired of My Shit: “M’am, please just slowly step away from the Declaration.”
Me [panicked]: “No…” [throws body toward the display case] “Look, it’s right there. There’s the handprint there”
KSGTMS: “Holy shit wow”
— Fin —
[Curtain. Applause]

So, like yeah, I don’t really know why this piece of superbly trivial knowledge is so damn interesting to me. Maybe it’s the intrigue of a mysterious handprint. (WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? WELL???) And because I can’t possibly travel back in time and keep a very, very, very close eye on the Declaration of Independence without at least one of the Founding Fathers giving me the evil eye and since I don’t have anything better to do, here are my top three imagined scenarios through which that damned handprint could have ended up on the most important sheepskin-related item in American history.

  1. You know how some illiterate people will use a thumbprint or another form of identification when they are needed to sign a form? Yeah, what if there were 57 people who signed the Declaration — not the original 56 that we have assumed. I promise, this is as conspiracy theory-ish as I will get in this publication, hopefully maybe but no promises. Like, there was this one dude (we’ll call him Rick) who had to get someone else to read the proposed Declaration to him and was (reportedly) like, “Hell yeah, freedom and revolution and screw the Brits and independence and all that jazz, I’m all for this you guys!” And the other revolutionary fighters were like, “Yo, this guy should be on our super rad freedom team” and Rick was like, “Cool!” and the other signers were like, “Yeah, just sign here!”. And our hero Rick, without missing the slightest beat, slapped his hand in the inkwell and before any of our esteemed Founding Fathers could scream, “NO, RICK, NO!”, Rick had done it. He had made his mark in history and it was in the vague shape of a triumphant hand.
  2. The other people who helped write and put together the Declaration got super mad at Jefferson for taking all the credit because, for some reason, they got to have an inside look at a normal second grade classroom in which the answer to the innocuous question, “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?”, was the inadvertently inflammatory reply, “Thomas Jefferson”. So, yeah one of the four other people who did their fair share of work (I’m betting it was Robert R. Livingston) overheard Jefferson boasting about “that sweet little paper I wrote the other night that will scare the living daylights out of the Brits hoorah hoorah hoorah” and got super pissed, crept into the hall in which the Declaration was laid out to be signed on, and promptly defaced it. With one of his hands. Just to smudge it a little. That’ll show you, Thomas.
  3. The handprint was not transferred onto the document at the time of the signing or anytime before/slightly after so. It was probably not even present in that century (side note: the fact that the 1700s are actually referred to as the 18th century never fails to confuse all the neurons in my brain it all makes logical sense but still). Like, I’m imagining a person in recent history, I’m saying around the 20th century/21st century. You know how people have actual jobs cleaning and preserving important pieces of paper and all that, like one of those people completely forgot proper laboratory protocol maybe they were just having a bad day you know, that happens. And like, you woke up late and the cat was sick and the bus was super noisy and you tripped on the stairs and now your knee really hurts and you have to read a bunch of research papers about whether or not George Washington’s teeth were made out of wood or hippopotamus teeth and all and now you have to clean a bit of sheepskin and it’s just an awful day and now one of your coworkers is telling another stupid joke about how Nicholas Cage is hiding in the air vents or whatever, ready to come out and steal the Declaration of Independence and you just — “GODDAMIT PETER JUST SHUT UP. SHUT UP. NATIONAL TRASURE CAME OUT IN 2004. IT’S FRICKIN’ 20[whatever year it is]. GET OVER IT.” and you slap your hand on the desk, but the desk is covered by the very document you were supposed to preserve with all the fancy chemicals that smell like hand sanitizer but wait, you did the worst job at preserving it because now there’s this giant handprint in the corner and you can’t get out the marks without destroying the signatures affected by it and holy crap you are so losing your job.

So, yeah. I mean, obviously all three of these scenarios have absolutely no chance of explaining that mysterious handprint. The real cause probably involves the cult of lizard people who moonlight as some of the most powerful leaders in human society. Or more likely, the real cause is just boring. Someone was sloppy, someone accidentally smudged it with ink-stained hands. Eh, the real cause doesn’t really matter. It’s definitely more interesting to think of all the fantastical scenarios, isn’t it? I guess that’s what drew me to this factoid to begin with. When something is a mystery, everything becomes a possibility — and that’s so cool. There’s also something about noticing a new detail in such an important piece of history, or even in something you see everyday. It’s awesome to notice all these things. Like how that water stain on your bedroom ceiling kinda looks like a dragon’s head. Or how there was someone in the past who accidentally or purposefully placed their hand on the Declaration of Independence and the print now exists to this day.

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