A rare 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence belongs to a Virginia technology entrepreneur, not the state of Maine, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday. Richard Adams Jr. of Fairfax County purchased the document from a London book dealer in 2001 for $475,000. But the state of Maine claimed it belongs to the town of Wiscasset, where it was kept by the town clerk in 1776.
Maine state archivist David Cheever said he found it “incredible” that the state’s rights were trumped by a private collector. Maine contended the document never should have been sold because of a state law which presumes that public documents remain public property unless ownership is expressly relinquished by the government.
“To us, it’s a public document. It was then. It is now,” Cheever said.