The library displays it only three months out of six, to protect it from the light. To give you an idea how valuable it is: Only 32 of those 201 copies are known to exist now.
Wrap-Up: Later in the day, I hopped over to Buena Park to visit the late Walter Knott's re-creation of Independence Hall--with its to-scale Liberty Bell--at Knott's Berry Farm.
I sat with other visitors in the benches in the back of its re-created meeting chamber for the 2nd Continental Congress. Its 15 tables--13 for delegates to the colonies, one for congressional President John Hancock, and one for the recording secretary--are draped in green cloth. Each has a lit candle, a goose quill pen, a copy of the Declaration, and a Bible.
As you stare at the empty tables, the audience listens to recorded voices of the Founding Fathers debating independence, the sound moving from table to table. You can almost see John Adams in his granny glasses and the clicking of his colonial shoes as he walks and talks: "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish . . . when we are in our graves, our children will honor this day. . . . Independence now, independence forever."
When the vote in this reenactment is finally cast--12 for independence, one abstention (New York)--and the show closes, the audience all clapped and cheered. I stayed for a second showing, and that audience clapped and cheered too, even though there were no actors to receive their applause.
As I returned to my car, I thought about the final words from one of the 56 signers of the Declaration, uttered in that radio-like drama: "I wonder if future generations will remember what this declaration cost this generation."
Jerry Hicks' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Readers may reach Hicks by call-ing The Times Orange County Edition at (714) 966-7823 or by fax to (714) 966-7711, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org