President Bill Clinton on the subject of the United States said the following stupid remark or did he really mean it?:

This is still the greatest country in the world, if we just will steel our wills and lose our minds.

Was this a mere mistake on his part or was it rather a deep truth that true Liberal socialists really believe? I say yes and amen, this is the system they are under because to do what they do and to say what they say day in and day out must be crazy at best or mistaken at the very least.
I mean come on people, Liberals cannot justify the economic stupidity that has transpired over the last few months unless they have planned a bust in our economy!

What Vice-president Dan Quayle said about history:

People that are really weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.” seems more TRUE in the last 20 years than ever before for we all know how weird politics has become. Decisions made with very little input from the citizens that payed their saleries. BOTH parties are deaf, dumb and blind to what WE THE PEOPLE desire. Party politics has REPLACED constitutional politics.


It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that politics is no longer people driven but GREED DRIVEN and the ones in charge of it don’t want to hear the other side (Whom they deem idiots and the minority fringe instead of listening to their issues), which is taking the Constitution seriously as the foundation of all decisions made!The Constitution once and for all ended the reign of “Me, myself and I” mentality and placed in us an American spirit filled with pride not in our own accomplishments alone but the accomplishments of the whole nation UNDER GOD! We are truly equal under this rule of law and it is ONLY the individual with perverted intents that tries to ruin it for others. Each party in Washington USES a copy of this document to promote their UN-constitutional rants, they say the other side is taking away your rights but what’s really happening is a case of “sight of hand” where one guy hides what their really doing while your reading what the other guy did. Don’t be deceived by this because BOTH sides of Washington are equally bad, they both LIE to create a one world secret government using our beloved constitution or the “Cut-up version” they read as its foundation!

0001The members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Constitutional Convention convened in response to dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation and the need for a strong centralized government. After four months of secret debate and many compromises, the proposed Constitution was submitted to the states for approval. Although the vote was close in some states, the Constitution was eventually ratified and the new Federal government came into existence in 1789. The Constitution established the U.S. government as its foundational document NOT A LIVING, MOVING WITH THE TIMES document that takes on its citizens changing viewpoints!
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES,

AS ORIGINALLY ADOPTED.

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.
ARTICLE 1.–SECTION 1.

1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
SECTION 2.

1. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States; and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.

2. No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

3. 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 service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by each State shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three; Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one; Connecticut five; New York six; New Jersey four; Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one; Maryland six; Virginia ten; North Carolina five; South Carolina five; and Georgia three.

4. When vacancies happen in the representation from any State, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

5. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker, and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
SECTION 3.

1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

2. Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided, as equally as may be, into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one-third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen, by resignation or otherwise, during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.

3. No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

5. The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.

6. The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.

7. Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.

*The Amendments subsequently adopted, and which are now a part of the Constitution, will be found in the Appendix, at the close of this volume.
Page ix
SECTION 4.

1. The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof, but the Congress may, at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.

2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
SECTION 5.

1. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members; and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as each House may provide.

2. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.

3. Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House, on any question, shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

4. Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn to more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
SECTION 6.

1. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall, in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to or returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

2. No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.
SECTION 7.

1. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.

2. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the person voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

3. Every order, resolution, or vote, to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary, (except on a question of adjournment,) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or, being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.
SECTION 8.

The Congress shall have power–

1. To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States:

2. To borrow money on the credit of the United States:

3. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes:

4. To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States:

5. To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures:

6. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States:
Page x

7. To establish post offices and post roads:

8. To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries:

9. To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court; to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations:

10. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land water:

11. To raise and support armies; but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years:

12. To provide and maintain a navy:

13. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces:

14. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions:

15. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress:

16. To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased, by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings: and

17. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or office thereof.
SECTION 9.

1. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

2. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.

3. No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed.

4. No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.

5. No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State; no preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels bound to or from one State be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.

6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

7. No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States, and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
SECTION 10.

1. No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility.

2. No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imposts laid by any State on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States, and such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.
ARTICLE II.–SECTION 1.

1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows:

2. Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

3. The electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall
Page xi

make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose, by ballot, one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall, in like manner, choose the President. But, in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each two-thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, af ter the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them, by ballot, the Vice President.

4. The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

5. No person, except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

6. In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President; and the Congress may, by law, provide for the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President; and such officer shall act accordingly until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

7. The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.

8. Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:

9. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.”
SECTION 2.

1. The President shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices; and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

2. He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law. But the Congress may, by law, vest the appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

3. The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
SECTION 3.

1. He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and, in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed; and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
SECTION 4.

1. The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
ARTICLE III.–SECTION 1.

1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges,
Page xii

both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior; and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
SECTION 2.

1. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State, between citizens of different States, between citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants of different States, and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.

2. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make.

3. The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury, and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
SECTION 3.

1. Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

2. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason; but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.
ARTICLE IV.–SECTION 1.

1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may, by general laws, prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
SECTION 2.

1. The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

2. A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice and be found in another State, shall, on demand of the executive authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime.

3. No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
SECTION 3.

1. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.

2. The Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
SECTION 4.

1. The United States shall guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive, (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.
ARTICLE V.

1. The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution; or, on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress: Provided, That no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
Page xiii
ARTICLE VI.

1. All debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this constitution as under the confederation.

2. This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

3. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
ARTICLE VII.

1. The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution between the States so ratifying the same.

Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present, the seventeenth day September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.

GEORGE WASHINGTON,
President and deputy from Virginia.

NEW HAMPSHIRE.
John Langdon,
Nicholas Gilman.

MASSACHUSETTS.
Nathaniel Gorham,
Rufus King.

CONNECTICUT.
William Samuel Johnson,
Roger Sherman.

NEW YORK.
Alexander Hamilton.

NEW JERSEY.
William Livingston,
David Brearly,
William Patterson,
Jonathan Dayton.

PENNSYLVANIA.
Benjamin Franklin,
Thomas Mifflin,
Robert Morris,
George Clymer,
Thomas Fitzsimons,
Jared Ingersoll,
James Wilson,
Governeur Morris.

DELAWARE.
George Read,
Gunning Bedford, Jun.
John Dickinson,
Richard Bassett,
Jacob Broom.

MARYLAND.
James McHenry,
Daniel of St. Tho. Jenifer,
Daniel Carroll.

VIRGINIA.
John Blair,
James Madison, Jun.

NORTH CAROLINA.
William Blount,
Richard Dobbs Spaight,
Hugh Williamson.

SOUTH CAROLINA.
John Rutledge,
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney,
Charles Pinckney,
Pierce Butler.

GEORGIA.
William Few,
Abraham Baldwin.

Attest, WILLIAM JACKSON, Secretary.

_____

The preparatory measures having been taken for bringing the constitution into operation, and the necessary elections of Representatives, Senators, President, and Vice President, having been held, nothing remained to start it into life but the assembly and organization of the two Houses of Congress.

The New United States of America Adopted the Bill of Rights
December 15, 1791
Mason had drafted the Virginia state constitution in 1776, asserting the principle of inalienable rights–certain individual rights that cannot be taken away.

Elected to the new House of Representatives, James Madison agreed with Mason. In the fall of 1789, he sponsored the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, speaking out on freedom of religion, speech, and the press. Ultimately, George Mason’s views prevailed. When James Madison drafted the 10 amendments to the Constitution that were to become the Bill of Rights, he drew heavily upon the ideas put forth in the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

There was one issue, however, that the Constitutional Convention did not resolve to Mason’s liking. The founding fathers compromised, permitting the continuation of the slave trade through 1808. Mason wanted to stop the importation of slaves. Because of the inability of the founding fathers to resolve the slavery issue, among other problems, Americans struggled through a bloody Civil War. Yet, it would take another hundred years to remove a web of state and local laws that prevented African Americans from a fuller exercise of freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s helped raise the awareness of Americans to the injustice of segregation and discrimination.

What other freedoms does the Bill of Rights guarantee? The first 10 amendments guarantee the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the rights of private property, fair treatment of those accused of crimes, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from self-incrimination, a speedy and impartial jury trial, and representation by counsel. The U.S. has continued to add amendments to these first 10, defining and protecting our personal liberties. The 15th Amendment gave the right to vote to all male Americans, regardless of race, in 1870. The 19th Amendment expanded those rights to women in 1920. What amendments in the Constitution most affect you?


The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.


The Bill of Rights: A Transcription

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the “Bill of Rights.”

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution: Amendments 11-27

Constitutional Amendments 1-10 make up what is known as The Bill of Rights.
Amendments 11-27 are listed below.


AMENDMENT XIPassed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795.

Note: Article III, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 11.

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.


AMENDMENT XIIPassed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804.

Note: A portion of Article II, section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th amendment.

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. –]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

*Superseded by section 3 of the 20th amendment.


AMENDMENT XIIIPassed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.

Note: A portion of Article IV, section 2, of the Constitution was superseded by the 13th amendment.

Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XIVPassed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

*Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.


AMENDMENT XVPassed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude–

Section 2.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XVIPassed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 9, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 16.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.


AMENDMENT XVIIPassed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.


AMENDMENT XVIIIPassed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.

Section 1.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


AMENDMENT XIXPassed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XXPassed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933.

Note: Article I, section 4, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of this amendment. In addition, a portion of the 12th amendment was superseded by section 3.

Section 1.
The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3.
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section 4.
The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Section 5.
Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.


AMENDMENT XXIPassed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933.

Section 1.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


AMENDMENT XXIIPassed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.

Section 1.
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.


AMENDMENT XXIIIPassed by Congress June 16, 1960. Ratified March 29, 1961.

Section 1.
The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XXIVPassed by Congress August 27, 1962. Ratified January 23, 1964.

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XXVPassed by Congress July 6, 1965. Ratified February 10, 1967.

Note: Article II, section 1, of the Constitution was affected by the 25th amendment.

Section 1.
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.


AMENDMENT XXVIPassed by Congress March 23, 1971. Ratified July 1, 1971.

Note: Amendment 14, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


AMENDMENT XXVIIOriginally proposed Sept. 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

The Declaration of Independence: A History

Nations come into being in many ways. Military rebellion, civil strife, acts of heroism, acts of treachery, a thousand greater and lesser clashes between defenders of the old order and supporters of the new–all these occurrences and more have marked the emergences of new nations, large and small. The birth of our own nation included them all. That birth was unique, not only in the immensity of its later impact on the course of world history and the growth of democracy, but also because so many of the threads in our national history run back through time to come together in one place, in one time, and in one document: the Declaration of Independence.

Moving Toward Independence

The clearest call for independence up to the summer of 1776 came in Philadelphia on June 7. On that date in session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), the Continental Congress heard Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read his resolution beginning: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

The Lee Resolution was an expression of what was already beginning to happen throughout the colonies. When the Second Continental Congress, which was essentially the government of the United States from 1775 to 1788, first met in May 1775, King George III had not replied to the petition for redress of grievances that he had been sent by the First Continental Congress. The Congress gradually took on the responsibilities of a national government. In June 1775 the Congress established the Continental Army as well as a continental currency. By the end of July of that year, it created a post office for the “United Colonies.”

In August 1775 a royal proclamation declared that the King’s American subjects were “engaged in open and avowed rebellion.” Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. And in May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to hire mercenaries to fight in America. The weight of these actions combined to convince many Americans that the mother country was treating the colonies as a foreign entity.

One by one, the Continental Congress continued to cut the colonies’ ties to Britain. The Privateering Resolution, passed in March 1776, allowed the colonists “to fit out armed vessels to cruize [sic] on the enemies of these United Colonies.” On April 6, 1776, American ports were opened to commerce with other nations, an action that severed the economic ties fostered by the Navigation Acts. A “Resolution for the Formation of Local Governments” was passed on May 10, 1776.

At the same time, more of the colonists themselves were becoming convinced of the inevitability of independence. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, published in January 1776, was sold by the thousands. By the middle of May 1776, eight colonies had decided that they would support independence. On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a resolution that “the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states.”

It was in keeping with these instructions that Richard Henry Lee, on June 7, 1776, presented his resolution. There were still some delegates, however, including those bound by earlier instructions, who wished to pursue the path of reconciliation with Britain. On June 11 consideration of the Lee Resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. Congress then recessed for 3 weeks. The tone of the debate indicated that at the end of that time the Lee Resolution would be adopted. Before Congress recessed, therefore, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence.

The Committee of Five

The committee consisted of two New England men, John Adams of Massachusetts and Roger Sherman of Connecticut; two men from the Middle Colonies, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York; and one southerner, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. In 1823 Jefferson wrote that the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. . . I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.” (If Jefferson did make a “fair copy,” incorporating the changes made by Franklin and Adams, it has not been preserved. It may have been the copy that was amended by the Congress and used for printing, but in any case, it has not survived. Jefferson’s rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson’s own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.)

Jefferson’s account reflects three stages in the life of the Declaration: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.

On July 1, 1776, Congress reconvened. The following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Immediately afterward, the Congress began to consider the Declaration. Adams and Franklin had made only a few changes before the committee submitted the document. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late morning of July 4. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.

The Declaration of Independence is made up of five distinct parts: the introduction; the preamble; the body, which can be divided into two sections; and a conclusion. The introduction states that this document will “declare” the “causes” that have made it necessary for the American colonies to leave the British Empire. Having stated in the introduction that independence is unavoidable, even necessary, the preamble sets out principles that were already recognized to be “self-evident” by most 18th- century Englishmen, closing with the statement that “a long train of abuses and usurpations . . . evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The first section of the body of the Declaration gives evidence of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” heaped upon the colonists by King George III. The second section of the body states that the colonists had appealed in vain to their “British brethren” for a redress of their grievances. Having stated the conditions that made independence necessary and having shown that those conditions existed in British North America, the Declaration concludes that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.”

Although Congress had adopted the Declaration submitted by the Committee of Five, the committee’s task was not yet completed. Congress had also directed that the committee supervise the printing of the adopted document. The first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were turned out from the shop of John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress. After the Declaration had been adopted, the committee took to Dunlap the manuscript document, possibly Jefferson’s “fair copy” of his rough draft. On the morning of July 5, copies were dispatched by members of Congress to various assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety as well as to the commanders of Continental troops. Also on July 5, a copy of the printed version of the approved Declaration was inserted into the “rough journal” of the Continental Congress for July 4. The text was followed by the words “Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest. Charles Thomson, Secretary.” It is not known how many copies John Dunlap printed on his busy night of July 4. There are 24 copies known to exist of what is commonly referred to as “the Dunlap broadside,” 17 owned by American institutions, 2 by British institutions, and 5 by private owners. (See Appendix A.)

The Engrossed Declaration

On July 9 the action of Congress was officially approved by the New York Convention. All 13 colonies had now signified their approval. On July 19, therefore, Congress was able to order that the Declaration be “fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile [sic] of ‘The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America,’ and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.”

Engrossing is the process of preparing an official document in a large, clear hand. Timothy Matlack was probably the engrosser of the Declaration. He was a Pennsylvanian who had assisted the Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson, in his duties for over a year and who had written out George Washington’s commission as commanding general of the ContinentalArmy. Matlack set to work with pen, ink, parchment, and practiced hand, and finally, on August 2, the journal of the Continental Congress records that “The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed.” One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration is that it was signed on July 4, 1776, by all the delegates in attendance.

John Hancock, the President of the Congress, was the first to sign the sheet of parchment measuring 24¼ by 29¾ inches. He used a bold signature centered below the text. In accordance with prevailing custom, the other delegates began to sign at the right below the text, their signatures arranged according to the geographic location of the states they represented. New Hampshire, the northernmost state, began the list, and Georgia, the southernmost, ended it. Eventually 56 delegates signed, although all were not present on August 2. Among the later signers were Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton, who found that he had no room to sign with the other New Hampshire delegates. A few delegates who voted for adoption of the Declaration on July 4 were never to sign in spite of the July 19 order of Congress that the engrossed document “be signed by every member of Congress.” Nonsigners included John Dickinson, who clung to the idea of reconciliation with Britain, and Robert R. Livingston, one of the Committee of Five, who thought the Declaration was premature.

Parchment and Ink

Over the next 200 years, the nation whose birth was announced with a Declaration “fairly engrossed on parchment” was to show immense growth in area, population, economic power, and social complexity and a lasting commitment to a testing and strengthening of its democracy. But what of the parchment itself? How was it to fare over the course of two centuries?

In the chronicle of the Declaration as a physical object, three themes necessarily entwine themselves: the relationship between the physical aging of the parchment and the steps taken to preserve it from deterioration; the relationship between the parchment and the copies that were made from it; and finally, the often dramatic story of the travels of the parchment during wartime and to its various homes.

Chronologically, it is helpful to divide the history of the Declaration after its signing into five main periods, some more distinct than others. The first period consists of the early travels of the parchment and lasts until 1814. The second period relates to the long sojourn of the Declaration in Washington, DC, from 1814 until its brief return to Philadelphia for the 1876 Centennial. The third period covers the years 1877-1921, a period marked by increasing concern for the deterioration of the document and the need for a fitting and permanent Washington home. Except for an interlude during World War II, the fourth and fifth periods cover the time the Declaration rested in the Library of Congress from 1921 to 1952 and in the National Archives from 1952 to the present.

Early Travels, 1776-1814

Once the Declaration was signed, the document probably accompanied the Continental Congress as that body traveled during the uncertain months and years of the Revolution. Initially, like other parchment documents of the time, the Declaration was probably stored in a rolled format. Each time the document was used, it would have been unrolled and re-rolled. This action, as well as holding the curled parchment flat, doubtless took its toll on the ink and on the parchment surface through abrasion and flexing. The acidity inherent in the iron gall ink used by Timothy Matlack allowed the ink to “bite” into the surface of the parchment, thus contributing to the ink’s longevity, but the rolling and unrolling of the parchment still presented many hazards.

After the signing ceremony on August 2, 1776, the Declaration was most likely filed in Philadelphia in the office of Charles Thomson, who served as the Secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789. On December 12, threatened by the British, Congress adjourned and reconvened 8 days later in Baltimore, MD. A light wagon carried the Declaration to its new home, where it remained until its return to Philadelphia in March of 1777.

On January 18, 1777, while the Declaration was still in Baltimore, Congress, bolstered by military successes at Trenton and Princeton, ordered the second official printing of the document. The July 4 printing had included only the names of John Hancock and Charles Thomson, and even though the first printing had been promptly circulated to the states, the names of subsequent signers were kept secret for a time because of fear of British reprisals. By its order of January 18, however, Congress required that “an authentic copy of the Declaration of Independency, with the names of the members of Congress subscribing to the same, be sent to each of the United States, and that they be desired to have the same put upon record.” The “authentic copy” was duly printed, complete with signers’ names, by Mary Katherine Goddard in Baltimore.

Assuming that the Declaration moved with the Congress, it would have been back in Philadelphia from March to September 1777. On September 27, it would have moved to Lancaster, PA, for 1 day only. From September 30, 1777, through June 1778, the Declaration would have been kept in the courthouse at York, PA. From July 1778 to June 1783, it would have had a long stay back in Philadelphia. In 1783, it would have been at Princeton, NJ, from June to November, and then, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the Declaration would have been moved to Annapolis, MD, where it stayed until October 1784. For the months of November and December 1784, it would have been at Trenton, NJ. Then in 1785, when Congress met in New York, the Declaration was housed in the old New York City Hall, where it probably remained until 1790 (although when Pierre L’Enfant was remodeling the building for the convening of the First Federal Congress, it might have been temporarily removed).

In July 1789 the First Congress under the new Constitution created the Department of Foreign Affairs and directed that its Secretary should have “the custody and charge of all records, books and papers” kept by the department of the same name under the old government. On July 24 Charles Thomson retired as Secretary of the Congress and, upon the order of President George Washington, surrendered the Declaration to Roger Alden, Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs. In September 1789 the name of the department was changed to the Department of State. Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration, returned from France to assume his duties as the first Secretary of State in March of 1790. Appropriately, those duties now included custody of the Declaration.

In July 1790 Congress provided for a permanent capital to be built among the woodlands and swamps bordering the Potomac River. Meanwhile, the temporary seat of government was to return to Philadelphia. Congress also provided that “prior to the first Monday in December next, all offices attached to the seat of the government of the United States” should be removed to Philadelphia. The Declaration was therefore back in Philadelphia by the close of 1790. It was housed in various buildings–on Market Street, at Arch and Sixth, and at Fifth and Chestnut.

In 1800, by direction of President John Adams, the Declaration and other government records were moved from Philadelphia to the new federal capital now rising in the District of Columbia. To reach its new home, the Declaration traveled down the Delaware River and Bay, out into the ocean, into the Chesapeake Bay, and up the Potomac to Washington, completing its longest water journey.

For about 2 months the Declaration was housed in buildings built for the use of the Treasury Department. For the next year it was housed in one of the “Seven Buildings” then standing at Nineteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Its third home before 1814 was in the old War Office Building on Seventeenth Street.

In August 1814, the United States being again at war with Great Britain, a British fleet appeared in the Chesapeake Bay. Secretary of State James Monroe rode out to observe the landing of British forces along the Patuxent River in Maryland. A message from Monroe alerted State Department officials, in particular a clerk named Stephen Pleasonton, of the imminent threat to the capital city and, of course, the government’s official records. Pleasonton “proceeded to purchase coarse linen, and cause it to be made into bags of convenient size, in which the gentlemen of the office” packed the precious books and records including the Declaration.

A cartload of records was then taken up the Potomac River to an unused gristmill belonging to Edgar Patterson. The structure was located on the Virginia side of the Potomac, about 2 miles upstream from Georgetown. Here the Declaration and the other records remained, probably overnight. Pleasonton, meanwhile, asked neighboring farmers for the use of their wagons. On August 24, the day of the British attack on Washington, the Declaration was on its way to Leesburg, VA. That evening, while the White House and other government buildings were burning, the Declaration was stored 35 miles away at Leesburg.

The Declaration remained safe at a private home in Leesburg for an interval of several weeks–in fact, until the British had withdrawn their troops from Washington and their fleet from the Chesapeake Bay. In September 1814 the Declaration was returned to the national capital. With the exception of a trip to Philadelphia for the Centennial and to Fort Knox during World War II, it has remained there ever since.

Washington, 1814-76

The Declaration remained in Washington from September 1814 to May 1841. It was housed in four locations. From 1814 to 1841, it was kept in three different locations as the State Department records were shifted about the growing city. The last of these locations was a brick building that, it was later observed, “offered no security against fire.”

One factor that had no small effect on the physical condition of the Declaration was recognized as interest in reproductions of the Declaration increased as the nation grew. Two early facsimile printings of the Declaration were made during the second decade of the 19th century: those of Benjamin Owen Tyler (1818) and John Binns (1819). Both facsimiles used decorative and ornamental elements to enhance the text of the Declaration. Richard Rush, who was Acting Secretary of State in 1817, remarked on September 10 of that year about the Tyler copy: “The foregoing copy of the Declaration of Independence has been collated with the original instrument and found correct. I have myself examined the signatures to each. Those executed by Mr. Tyler, are curiously exact imitations, so much so, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the closest scrutiny to distinguish them, were it not for the hand of time, from the originals.” Rush’s reference to “the hand of time” suggests that the signatures were already fading in 1817, only 40 years after they were first affixed to the parchment.

One later theory as to why the Declaration was aging so soon after its creation stems from the common 18th-century practice of taking “press copies.” Press copies were made by placing a damp sheet of thin paper on a manuscript and pressing it until a portion of the ink was transferred. The thin paper copy was retained in the same manner as a modern carbon copy. The ink was reimposed on a copper plate, which was then etched so that copies could be run off the plate on a press. This “wet transfer” method may have been used by William J. Stone when in 1820 he was commissioned by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to make a facsimile of the entire Declaration, signatures as well as text. By June 5, 1823, almost exactly 47 years after Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration, the (Washington) National Intelligencer was able to report “that Mr. William J. Stone, a respectable and enterprising Engraver of this City, has, after a labor of three years, completed a fac simile of the original of the Declaration of Independence, now in the archives of the government; that it is executed with the greatest exactness and fidelity; and that the Department of State has become the purchaser of the plate.”

As the Intelligencer went on to observe: “We are very glad to hear this, for the original of that paper which ought to be immortal and imperishable, by being so much handled by copyists and curious visitors, might receive serious injury. The facility of multiplying copies of it now possessed by the Department of State will render further exposure of the original unnecessary.” The language of the newspaper report, like that of Rush’s earlier comment, would seem to indicate some fear of the deterioration of the Declaration even prior to Stone’s work.

The copies made from Stone’s copperplate established the clear visual image of the Declaration for generations of Americans. The 200 official parchment copies struck from the Stone plate carry the identification “Engraved by W. J. Stone for the Department of State, by order” in the upper left corner followed by “of J. Q. Adams, Sec. of State July 4th 1823.” in the upper right corner. “Unofficial” copies that were struck later do not have the identification at the top of the document. Instead the engraver identified his work by engraving “W. J. Stone SC. Washn.” near the lower left corner and burnishing out the earlier identification.

The longest of the early sojourns of the Declaration was from 1841 to 1876. Daniel Webster was Secretary of State in 1841. On June 11 he wrote to Commissioner of Patents Henry L. Ellsworth, who was then occupying a new building (now the National Portrait Gallery), that “having learned that there is in the new building appropriated to the Patent Office suitable accommodations for the safe-keeping, as well as the exhibition of the various articles now deposited in this Department, and usually, exhibited to visitors . . . I have directed them to be transmitted to you.” An inventory accompanied the letter. Item 6 was the Declaration.

The “new building” was a white stone structure at Seventh and F Streets. The Declaration and Washington’s commission as commander in chief were mounted together in a single frame and hung in a white painted hall opposite a window offering exposure to sunlight. There they were to remain on exhibit for 35 years, even after the Patent Office separated from the State Department to become administratively a part of the Interior Department. This prolonged exposure to sunlight accelerated the deterioration of the ink and parchment of the Declaration, which was approaching 100 years of age toward the end of this period.

During the years that the Declaration was exhibited in the Patent Office, the combined effects of aging, sunlight, and fluctuating temperature and relative humidity took their toll on the document. Occasionally, writers made somewhat negative comments on the appearance of the Declaration. An observer in the United States Magazine (October 1856) went so far as to refer to “that old looking paper with the fading ink.” John B. Ellis remarked in The Sights and Secrets of the National Capital (Chicago, 1869) that “it is old and yellow, and the ink is fading from the paper.” An anonymous writer in the Historical Magazine (October 1870) wrote: “The original manuscript of the Declaration of Independence and of Washington’s Commission, now in the United States Patent Office at Washington, D.C., are said to be rapidly fading out so that in a few years, only the naked parchment will remain. Already, nearly all the signatures attached to the Declaration of Independence are entirely effaced.” In May 1873 the Historical Magazine published an official statement by Mortimer Dormer Leggett, Commissioner of Patents, who admitted that “many of the names to the Declaration are already illegible.”

The technology of a new age and the interest in historical roots engendered by the approaching Centennial focused new interest on the Declaration in the 1870s and brought about a brief change of home.

The Centennial and the Debate Over Preservation, 1876-1921

In 1876 the Declaration traveled to Philadelphia, where it was on exhibit for the Centennial National Exposition from May to October. Philadelphia’s Mayor William S. Stokley was entrusted by President Ulysses S. Grant with temporary custody of the Declaration. The Public Ledger for May 8, 1876, noted that it was in Independence Hall “framed and glazed for protection, and . . . deposited in a fireproof safe especially designed for both preservation and convenient display. [When the outer doors of the safe were opened, the parchment was visible behind a heavy plate-glass inner door; the doors were closed at night.] Its aspect is of course faded and time-worn. The text is fully legible, but the major part of the signatures are so pale as to be only dimly discernible in the strongest light, a few remain wholly readable, and some are wholly invisible, the spaces which contained them presenting only a blank.”

Other descriptions made at Philadelphia were equally unflattering: “scarce bears trace of the signatures the execution of which made fifty-six names imperishable,” “aged-dimmed.” But on the Fourth of July, after the text was read aloud to a throng on Independence Square by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia (grandson of the signer Richard Henry Lee), “The faded and crumbling manuscript, held together by a simple frame was then exhibited to the crowd and was greeted with cheer after cheer.”

By late summer the Declaration’s physical condition had become a matter of public concern. On August 3, 1876, Congress adopted a joint resolution providing “that a commission, consisting of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Librarian of Congress be empowered to have resort to such means as will most effectually restore the writing of the original manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, with the signatures appended thereto.” This resolution had actually been introduced as early as January 5, 1876. One candidate for the task of restoration was William J. Canby, an employee of the Washington Gas Light Company. On April 13 Canby had written to the Librarian of Congress: “I have had over thirty years experience in handling the pen upon parchment and in that time, as an expert, have engrossed hundreds of ornamental, special documents.” Canby went on to suggest that “the only feasible plan is to replenish the original with a supply of ink, which has been destroyed by the action of light and time, with an ink well known to be, for all practical purposes, imperishable.”

The commission did not, however, take any action at that time. After the conclusion of the Centennial exposition, attempts were made to secure possession of the Declaration for Philadelphia, but these failed and the parchment was returned to the Patent Office in Washington, where it had been since 1841, even though that office had become a part of the Interior Department. On April 11, 1876, Robert H. Duell, Commissioner of Patents, had written to Zachariah Chandler, Secretary of the Interior, suggesting that “the Declaration of Independence, and the commission of General Washington, associated with it in the same frame, belong to your Department as heirlooms.

Chandler appears to have ignored this claim, for in an exchange of letters with Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, it was agreed-with the approval of President Grant-to move the Declaration into the new, fireproof building that the State Department shared with the War and Navy Departments (now the Old Executive Office Building).

On March 3, 1877, the Declaration was placed in a cabinet on the eastern side of the State Department library, where it was to be exhibited for 17 years. It may be noted that not only was smoking permitted in the library, but the room contained an open fireplace. Nevertheless this location turned out to be safer than the premises just vacated; much of the Patent Office was gutted in a fire that occurred a few months later.

On May 5, 1880, the commission that had been appointed almost 4 years earlier came to life again in response to a call from the Secretary of the Interior. It requested that William B. Rogers, president of the National Academy of Sciences appoint a committee of experts to consider “whether such restoration [of the Declaration] be expedient or practicable and if so in what way the object can best be accomplished.”

The duly appointed committee reported on January 7, 1881, that Stone used the “wet transfer” method in the creation of his facsimile printing of 1823, that the process had probably removed some of the original ink, and that chemical restoration methods were “at best imperfect and uncertain in their results.” The committee concluded, therefore, that “it is not expedient to attempt to restore the manuscript by chemical means.” The group of experts then recommended that “it will be best either to cover the present receptacle of the manuscript with an opaque lid or to remove the manuscript from its frame and place it in a portfolio, where it may be protected from the action of light.” Finally, the committee recommended that “no press copies of any part of it should in future be permitted.”

Recent study of the Declaration by conservators at the National Archives has raised doubts that a “wet transfer” took place. Proof of this occurrence, however, cannot be verified or denied strictly by modern examination methods. No documentation prior to the 1881 reference has been found to support the theory; therefore we may never know if Stone actually performed the procedure.

Little, if any, action was taken as a result of the 1881 report. It was not until 1894 that the State Department announced: “The rapid fading of the text of the original Declaration of Independence and the deterioration of the parchment upon which it is engrossed, from exposure to light and lapse of time, render it impracticable for the Department longer to exhibit it or to handle it. For the secure preservation of its present condition, so far as may be possible, it has been carefully wrapped and placed flat in a steel case.”

A new plate for engravings was made by the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1895, and in 1898 a photograph was made for the Ladies’ Home Journal. On this latter occasion, the parchment was noted as “still in good legible condition” although “some of the signatures” were “necessarily blurred.”

On April 14, 1903, Secretary of State John Hay solicited again the help of the National Academy of Sciences in providing “such recommendations as may seem practicable . . . touching [the Declaration’s] preservation.” Hay went on to explain: “It is now kept out of the light, sealed between two sheets of glass, presumably proof against air, and locked in a steel safe. I am unable to say, however, that, in spite of these precautions, observed for the past ten years, the text is not continuing to fade and the parchment to wrinkle and perhaps to break.”

On April 24 a committee of the academy reported its findings. Summarizing the physical history of the Declaration, the report stated: “The instrument has suffered very seriously from the very harsh treatment to which it was exposed in the early years of the Republic. Folding and rolling have creased the parchment. The wet press-copying operation to which it was exposed about 1820, for the purpose of producing a facsimile copy, removed a large portion of the ink. Subsequent exposure to the action of light for more than thirty years, while the instrument was placed on exhibition, has resulted in the fading of the ink, particularly in the signatures. The present method of caring for the instrument seems to be the best that can be suggested.”

The committee added its own “opinion that the present method of protecting the instrument should be continued; that it should be kept in the dark and dry as possible, and never placed on exhibition.” Secretary Hay seems to have accepted the committee’s recommendation; in the following year, William H. Michael, author of The Declaration of Independence (Washington, 1904), recorded that the Declaration was “locked and sealed, by order of Secretary Hay, and is no longer shown to anyone except by his direction.”

World War I came and went. Then, on April 21, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby issued an order creating yet another committee: “A Committee is hereby appointed to study the proper steps that should be taken for the permanent and effective preservation from deterioration and from danger from fire, or other form of destruction, of those documents of supreme value which under the law are deposited with the Secretary of State. The inquiry will include the question of display of certain of these documents for the benefit of the patriotic public.”

On May 5, 1920, the new committee reported on the physical condition of the safes that housed the Declaration and the Constitution. It declared: “The safes are constructed of thin sheets of steel. They are not fireproof nor would they offer much obstruction to an evil-disposed person who wished to break into them.” About the physical condition of the Declaration, the committee stated: “We believe the fading can go no further. We see no reason why the original document should not be exhibited if the parchment be laid between two sheets of glass, hermetically sealed at the edges and exposed only to diffused light.”

The committee also made some important “supplementary recommendations.” It noted that on March 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt had directed that certain records relating to the Continental Congress be turned over by the Department of State to the Library of Congress: “This transfer was made under a provision of an Act of February 25, 1903, that any Executive Department may turn over to the Library of Congress books, maps, or other material no longer needed for the use of the Department.” The committee recommended that the remaining papers, including the Declaration and the Constitution, be similarly given over to the custody of the Library of Congress. For the Declaration, therefore, two important changes were in the offing: a new home and the possibility of exhibition to “the patriotic public.”

The Library of Congress . . . and Fort Knox, 1921-52

There was no action on the recommendations of 1920 until after the Harding administration took office. On September 28, 1921, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes addressed the new President: “I enclose an executive order for your signature, if you approve, transferring to the custody of the Library of Congress the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States which are now in the custody of this Department. . . . I make this recommendation because in the Library of Congress these muniments will be in the custody of experts skilled in archival preservation, in a building of modern fireproof construction, where they can safely be exhibited to the many visitors who now desire to see them.”

President Warren G. Harding agreed. On September 29, 1921, he issued the Executive order authorizing the transfer. The following day Secretary Hughes sent a copy of the order to Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam, stating that he was “prepared to turn the documents over to you when you are ready to receive them.”

Putnam was both ready and eager. He presented himself forthwith at the State Department. The safes were opened, and the Declaration and the Constitution were carried off to the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill in the Library’s “mail wagon,” cushioned by a pile of leather U.S. mail sacks. Upon arrival, the two national treasures were placed in a safe in Putnam’s office.

On October 3, Putnam took up the matter of a permanent location. In a memorandum to the superintendent of the Library building and grounds, Putnam proceeded from the premise that “in the Library” the documents “might be treated in such a way as, while fully safe-guarding them and giving them distinction, they should be open to inspection by the public at large.” The memorandum discussed the need for a setting “safe, dignified, adequate, and in every way suitable . . . Material less than bronze would be unworthy. The cost must be considerable.”

The Librarian then requested the sum of $12,000 for his purpose. The need was urgent because the new Bureau of the Budget was about to print forthcoming fiscal year estimates. There was therefore no time to make detailed architectural plans. Putnam told an appropriations committee on January 16, 1922, just what he had in mind. “There is a way . . . we could construct, say, on the second floor on the western side in that long open gallery a railed inclosure, material of bronze, where these documents, with one or two auxiliary documents leading up to them, could be placed, where they need not be touched by anybody but where a mere passer-by could see them, where they could be set in permanent bronze frames and where they could be protected from the natural light, lighted only by soft incandescent lamps. The result could be achieved and you would have something every visitor to Washington would wish to tell about when he returned and who would regard it, as the newspapermen are saying, with keen interest as a sort of ‘shrine.'” The Librarian’s imaginative presentation was successful: The sum of $12,000 was appropriated and approved on March 20, 1922.

Before long, the “sort of ‘shrine'” was being designed by Francis H. Bacon, whose brother Henry was the architect of the Lincoln Memorial. Materials used included different kinds of marble from New York, Vermont, Tennessee, the Greek island of Tinos, and Italy. The marbles surrounding the manuscripts were American; the floor and balustrade were made of foreign marbles to correspond with the material used in the rest of the Library. The Declaration was to be housed in a frame of gold-plated bronze doors and covered with double panes of plate glass with specially prepared gelatin films between the plates to exclude the harmful rays of light. A 24-hour guard would provide protection.

On February 28, 1924, the shrine was dedicated in the presence of President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, Secretary Hughes, and other distinguished guests. Not a word was spoken during a moving ceremony in which Putnam fitted the Declaration into its frame. There were no speeches. Two stanzas of America were sung. In Putnam’s words: “The impression on the audience proved the emotional potency of documents animate with a great tradition.”

With only one interruption, the Declaration hung on the wall of the second floor of the Great Hall of the Library of Congress until December 1952. During the prosperity of the 1920s and the Depression of the 1930s, millions of people visited the shrine. But the threat of war and then war itself caused a prolonged interruption in the steady stream of visitors.

On April 30, 1941, worried that the war raging in Europe might engulf the United States, the newly appointed Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. The Librarian was concerned for the most precious of the many objects in his charge. He wrote “to enquire whether space might perhaps be found” at the Bullion Depository in Fort Knox for his most valuable materials, including the Declaration, “in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary to remove them from Washington.” Secretary Morgenthau replied that space would indeed be made available as necessary for the “storage of such of the more important papers as you might designate.”

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On December 23, the Declaration and the Constitution were removed from the shrine and placed between two sheets of acid-free manilla paper. The documents were then carefully wrapped in a container of all-rag neutral millboard and placed in a specially designed bronze container. It was late at night when the container was finally secured with padlocks on each side. Preparations were resumed on the day after Christmas, when the Attorney General ruled that the Librarian needed no “further authority from the Congress or the President” to take such action as he deemed necessary for the “proper protection and preservation” of the documents in his charge.

The packing process continued under constant armed guard. The container was finally sealed with lead and packed in a heavy box; the whole weighed some 150 pounds. It was a far cry from the simple linen bag of the summer of 1814.

At about 5 p.m. the box, along with other boxes containing vital records, was loaded into an armed and escorted truck, taken to Union Station, and loaded into a compartment of the Pullman sleeper Eastlake. Armed Secret Service agents occupied the neighboring compartments. After departing from Washington at 6:30 p.m., the Declaration traveled to Louisville, KY, arriving at 10:30 a.m., December 27, 1941. More Secret Service agents and a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division met the train, convoyed its precious contents to the Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, and placed the Declaration in compartment 24 in the outer tier on the ground level.

The Declaration was periodically examined during its sojourn at Fort Knox. One such examination in 1942 found that the Declaration had become detached in part from its mount, including the upper right corner, which had been stuck down with copious amounts of glue. In his journal for May 14, 1942, Verner W. Clapp, a Library of Congress official, noted: “At one time also (about January 12, 1940) an attempt had been made to reunite the detached upper right hand corner to the main portion by means of a strip of ‘scotch’ cellulose tape which was still in place, discolored to a molasses color. In the various mending efforts glue had been splattered in two places on the obverse of the document.”

The opportunity was taken to perform conservation treatment in order to stabilize and rejoin the upper right corner. Under great secrecy, George Stout and Evelyn Erlich, both of the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, traveled to Fort Knox. Over a period of 2 days, they performed mending of small tears, removed excess adhesive and the “scotch” tape, and rejoined the detached upper right corner.

Finally, in 1944, the military authorities assured the Library of Congress that all danger of enemy attack had passed. On September 19, the documents were withdrawn from Fort Knox. On Sunday, October 1, at 11:30 a.m., the doors of the Library were opened. The Declaration was back in its shrine.

With the return of peace, the keepers of the Declaration were mindful of the increasing technological expertise available to them relating to the preservation of the parchment. In this they were readily assisted by the National Bureau of Standards, which even before World War II, had researched the preservation of the Declaration. The problem of shielding it from harsh light, for example, had in 1924 led to the insertion of a sheet of yellow gelatin between the protective plates of glass. Yet this procedure lessened the visibility of an already faded parchment. Could not some improvement be made?

Following reports of May 5, 1949, on studies in which the Library staff, members of the National Bureau of Standards, and representatives of a glass manufacturer had participated, new recommendations were made. In 1951 the Declaration was sealed in a thermopane enclosure filled with properly humidified helium. The exhibit case was equipped with a filter to screen out damaging light. The new enclosure also had the effect of preventing harm from air pollution, a growing peril.

Soon after, however, the Declaration was to make one more move, the one to its present home. (See Appendix B.)

The National Archives, 1952 to the Present

In 1933, while the Depression gripped the nation, President Hoover laid the cornerstone for the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. He announced that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would eventually be kept in the impressive structure that was to occupy the site. Indeed, it was for their keeping and display that the exhibition hall in the National Archives had been designed. Two large murals were painted for its walls. In one, Thomas Jefferson is depicted presenting the Declaration to John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress while members of that Revolutionary body look on. In the second, James Madison is portrayed submitting the Constitution to George Washington.

The final transfer of these special documents did not, however, take place until almost 20 years later. In October 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed the first Archivist of the United States, Robert Digges Wimberly Connor. The President told Connor that “valuable historic documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, would reside in the National Archives Building. The Library of Congress, especially Librarian Herbert Putnam, objected. In a meeting with the President 2 months after his appointment, Connor explained to Roosevelt how the documents came to be in the Library and that Putnam felt another Act of Congress was necessary in order for them to be transferred to the Archives. Connor eventually told the President that it would be better to leave the matter alone until Putnam retired.

When Herbert Putnam retired on April 5, 1939, Archibald MacLeish was nominated to replace him. MacLeish agreed with Roosevelt and Connor that the two important documents belonged in the National Archives. Because of World War II, during much of which the Declaration was stored at Fort Knox, and Connor’s resignation in 1941, MacLeish was unable to enact the transfer. By 1944, when the Declaration and Constitution returned to Washington from Fort Knox, MacLeish had been appointed Assistant Secretary of State.

Solon J. Buck, Connor’s successor as Archivist of the United States (1941-48), felt that the documents were in good hands at the Library of Congress. His successor, Wayne Grover, disagreed. Luther Evans, the Librarian of Congress appointed by President Truman in June 1945, shared Grover’s opinion that the documents should be transferred to the Archives.

In 1951 the two men began working with their staff members and legal advisers to have the documents transferred. The Archives position was that the documents were federal records and therefore covered by the Federal Records Act of 1950, which was “paramount to and took precedence over” the 1922 act that had appropriated money for the shrine at the Library of Congress. Luther Evans agreed with this line of reasoning, but he emphasized getting the approval of the President and the Joint Committee on the Library.

Senator Theodore H. Green, Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, agreed that the transfer should take place but stipulated that it would be necessary to have his committee act on the matter. Evans went to the April 30, 1952, committee meeting alone. There is no formal record of what was said at the meeting, except that the Joint Committee on the Library ordered that the documents be transferred to the National Archives. Not only was the Archives the official depository of the government’s records, it was also, in the judgment of the committee, the most nearly bombproof building in Washington.

At 11 a.m., December 13, 1952, Brigadier General Stoyte O. Ross, commanding general of the Air Force Headquarters Command, formally received the documents at the Library of Congress. Twelve members of the Armed Forces Special Police carried the 6 pieces of parchment in their helium-filled glass cases, enclosed in wooden crates, down the Library steps through a line of 88 servicewomen. An armored Marine Corps personnel carrier awaited the documents. Once they had been placed on mattresses inside the vehicle, they were accompanied by a color guard, ceremonial troops, the Army Band, the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps, two light tanks, four servicemen carrying submachine guns, and a motorcycle escort in a parade down Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues to the Archives Building. Both sides of the parade route were lined by Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine, and Air Force personnel. At 11:35 a.m. General Ross and the 12 special policemen arrived at the National Archives Building, carried the crates up the steps, and formally delivered them into the custody of Archivist of the United States Wayne Grover. (Already at the National Archives was the Bill of Rights, protectively sealed according to the modern techniques used a year earlier for the Declaration and Constitution.)

The formal enshrining ceremony on December 15, 1952, was equally impressive. Chief Justice of the United States Fred M. Vinson presided over the ceremony, which was attended by officials of more than 100 national civic, patriotic, religious, veterans, educational, business, and labor groups. After the invocation by the Reverend Frederick Brown Harris, chaplain of the Senate, Governor Elbert N. Carvel of Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution, called the roll of states in the order in which they ratified the Constitution or were admitted to the Union. As each state was called, a servicewoman carrying the state flag entered the Exhibition Hall and remained at attention in front of the display cases circling the hall. President Harry S. Truman, the featured speaker, said:

“The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are now assembled in one place for display and safekeeping. . . . We are engaged here today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages. . . . This magnificent hall has been constructed to exhibit them, and the vault beneath, that we have built to protect them, is as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man can devise. All this is an honorable effort, based upon reverence for the great past, and our generation can take just pride in it.”

Senator Green briefly traced the history of the three documents, and then the Librarian of Congress and the Archivist of the United States jointly unveiled the shrine. Finally, Justice Vinson spoke briefly, the Reverend Bernard Braskamp, chaplain of the House of Representatives gave the benediction, the U.S. Marine Corps Band played the “Star Spangled Banner,” the President was escorted from the hall, the 48 flagbearers marched out, and the ceremony was over. (The story of the transfer of the documents is found in Milton O. Gustafson, ” The Empty Shrine: The Transfer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the National Archives,” The American Archivist 39 (July 1976): 271-285.)

The present shrine provides an imposing home. The priceless documents stand at the center of a semicircle of display cases showing other important records of the growth of the United States. The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights stand slightly elevated, under armed guard, in their bronze and marble shrine. The Bill of Rights and two of the five leaves of the Constitution are displayed flat. Above them the Declaration of Independence is held impressively in an upright case constructed of ballistically tested glass and plastic laminate. Ultraviolet-light filters in the laminate give the inner layer a slightly greenish hue. At night, the documents are stored in an underground vault.

In 1987 the National Archives and Records Administration installed a $3 million camera and computerized system to monitor the condition of the three documents. The Charters Monitoring System was designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to assess the state of preservation of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. It can detect any changes in readability due to ink flaking, off-setting of ink to glass, changes in document dimensions, and ink fading. The system is capable of recording in very fine detail 1-inch square areas of documents and later retaking the pictures in exactly the same places and under the same conditions of lighting and charge-coupled device (CCD) sensitivity. (The CCD measures reflectivity.) Periodic measurements are compared to the baseline image to determine if changes or deterioration invisible to the human eye have taken place.

The Declaration has had many homes, from humble lodgings and government offices to the interiors of safes and great public displays. It has been carried in wagons, ships, a Pullman sleeper, and an armored vehicle. In its latest home, it has been viewed with respect by millions of people, everyone of whom has had thereby a brief moment, a private moment, to reflect on the meaning of democracy. The nation to which the Declaration gave birth has had an immense impact on human history, and continues to do so. In telling the story of the parchment, it is appropriate to recall the words of poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish. He described the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as “these fragile objects which bear so great a weight of meaning to our people.” The story of the Declaration of Independence as a document can only be a part of the larger history, a history still unfolding, a “weight of meaning” constantly, challenged, strengthened, and redefined.

Appendix A

The 26 copies of the Dunlap broadside known to exist are dispersed among American and British institutions and private owners. The following are the current locations of the copies.

National Archives, Washington, DC
Library of Congress, Washington, DC (two copies)
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, MD
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (two copies)
Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia, PA
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA
Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Scheide Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ [The Library is privately owned.]
New York Public Library, New York
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Chapin Library, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
Yale University, New Haven, CT
American Independence Museum, Exeter, NH
Maine Historical Society, Portland, ME
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL
City of Dallas, City Hall, Dallas, TX
Declaration of Independence Road Trip [Norman Lear and David Hayden]
Private collector
National Archives, United Kingdom (three copies)

Appendix B

The locations given for the Declaration from 1776 to 1789 are based on the locations for meetings of the Continental and Confederation Congresses:

Philadelphia: August-December 1776
Baltimore: December 1776-March 1777
Philadelphia: March-September 1777
Lancaster, PA: September 27, 1777
York, PA: September 30, 1777-June 1778
Philadelphia: July 1778-June 1783
Princeton, NJ: June-November 1783
Annapolis, MD: November 1783-October 1784
Trenton, NJ: November-December 1784
New York: 1785-1790
Philadelphia: 1790-1800
Washington, DC (three locations): 1800-1814
Leesburg, VA: August-September 1814
Washington, DC (three locations): 1814-1841
Washington, DC (Patent Office Building): 1841-1876
Philadelphia: May-November 1876
Washington, DC (State, War, and Navy Building): 1877-1921
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1921-1941
Fort Knox*: 1941-1944
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1944-1952
Washington, DC (National Archives): 1952-present

*Except that the document was displayed on April 13, 1943, at the dedication of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton