A draft copy of the U.S. Constitution used by Abraham Baldwin, Georgia signer to the Contitution. Georgia lawyer Abraham Baldwin, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, saved his draft copy. (Photo: Russ Bryant, courtesy of Georgia Historical Society)

The Georgia Historical Society on Monday will publicly display a near-final draft of the U.S. Constitution, with changes and margin notes made by Georgia lawyer Abraham Baldwin.

Baldwin was one of two representatives from Georgia at the Constitutional Convention who signed the final document that was released 281 years ago, on Sept. 17, 1781.

The four-page draft issued a few days earlier was supposed to have been destroyed when the final Constitution was completed, but Baldwin kept his copy. “The Georgia Historical Society is grateful to this day” for Baldwin’s defiance of the instruction, said Patricia Meagher, the society’s communication director. Only about 12 copies of the draft remain, she added.

According to an article by Robert Weber in the group’s magazine, Georgia History Today, Baldwin received one of about 60 copies of a draft produced by a “Committee of Style and Arrangement.” The committee consisted of five members, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

A draft copy of the U.S. Constitution used by Abraham Baldwin, Georgia signer to the Contitution. A draft copy of the U.S. Constitution used by Abraham Baldwin, Georgia signer to the Constitution. (Courtesy photo/Georgia Historical Society)

A photo of the first page provided by the society shows that Baldwin noted several changes from the draft that can be seen in the final Constitution. In Article I, Section 2, Baldwin scratched out “servitude” and wrote “service” in the margin next to this sentence: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.”

In Section 3, Baldwin scratched in another change with a neat carat after the word “Oath” and in the margin adding “or affirmation,” in this part: “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath.”

Such changes “are valuable as evidence of the convention’s evolving collective approach to drafting a framework of government,” Weber wrote.

Typically, the document can be viewed only by appointment, but Monday’s event will be free and open to the public, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.