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Archive for '- Revolutionary War'

Celebrating Benjamin Franklin’s Birthday with Founders Online

Today’s post comes from Keith Donohue, Communications Director for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) at the National Archives. This post was also published on the White House blog.

“The noblest question in the world is What Good may I do in it? – Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1737

Today we celebrate the 308th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who answered that question time and again as a writer, printer, inventor, American diplomat, and godfather to a free and independent nation. He was called “The First American” and was in many ways the very idea of what an American could and should be during the Founding Era of our nation.

This Friday, January 17, marks his birthday in 1706, and the National Archives is celebrating by adding the annotated volumes from The Papers of Benjamin Franklin to Founders Online.

You can now read every issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack, trace Franklin’s views on picking the turkey as our national emblem, pore through his autobiography, read the correspondence between Franklin and the leading thinkers of the day, and find the trove of letters written between Benjamin and his beloved sister Jane Mecom that show the personal side of the First American.

Launched on June 13, 2013, Founders Online is the result of a partnership between the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the University of … [ Read all ]

Happy July 2, John Adams!

There wasn’t supposed to be a Fourth of July celebration in the vision of John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and our second President.

But in that Philadelphia summer of 1776, having successfully argued for the Second Continental Congress to declare the United States independent of Great Britain, Adams was excited.

The day after the Congress approved the resolution declaring independence on July 2,  Adams penned one of the many letters he wrote home to his wife, Abigail. He wrote, in part:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Adams got his pomp and parade and his bells and bonfires—and from one end of the continent to the other—but he was off by two days.

The Congress did indeed declare the United States independent on July 2, and Adams played no small part in it. The delegates debated Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration … [ Read all ]

What are you doing on July 4?

Every year, we celebrate Independence Day on the steps of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. It’s a fun, free event for the whole family!

(And if you don’t like the heat, you can now watch the program live from inside the National Archives building. Email specialevents@nara.gov to reserve a seat in our air-conditioned theater.)

 

This year, Steve Scully of C-SPAN is our Master of Ceremonies. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will welcome the crowds. Our special guests George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Ned Hector, and Abigail Adams will read aloud the Declaration of Independence. This is your chance to boo and huzzah like the colonists of 1776!

The 3rd United States Infantry “Old Guard” Continental Color Guard will present the colors, and the United States Air Force Band will sing the National Anthem.

After the program, you can go into the building and see the original Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda where it is on permanent display. (Look for the mysterious handprint!) And don’t miss the family activities in the Boeing Learning Center.

Here’s the schedule of events—stay and watch the parade afterwards!

10 a.m.–11 a.m.

Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony

  • Presentation of colors by the Continental Color Guard*
  • Performance by the Fife and Drum Corps*
  • Remarks by Archivist of the United States David
  • [ Read all ]

The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online

Today’s post comes from Keith Donohue, communications director for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

What was the original intent behind the Constitution and other documents that helped shape the nation? What did the Founders of our country have to say? Those questions persist in the political debates and discussions to this day, and fortunately, we have a tremendous archive left behind by those statesmen who built the government over 200 years ago.

For the past 50 years, teams of editors have been copying documents from historical collections scattered around the world that serve as a record of the Founding Era. They have transcribed hundreds of thousands of documents—letters, diaries, ledgers, and the first drafts of history—and have researched and provided annotation and context to deepen our understanding of these documents.

These papers have been assembled in 242 documentary editions covering the works of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, as well as hundreds of people who corresponded with them. Now for the first time ever, these documents—along with thousands of others that will appear in additional print volumes—will be available to the public.

The Founders Online is a new website at the National Archives that will allow people to search this archive … [ Read all ]

Thomas Jefferson: Governor of Virginia, Part II

Today’s guest post was written by Jim Zeender, senior registrar in Exhibits at the National Archives in Washington, DC. This post continues the story of Jefferson as Governor, began in Part I.

Jefferson’s term as Governor ended on June 2, 1781, a dangerous and chaotic time for Virginia. General Cornwallis had heard of the General Assembly’s move to Charlottesville and quickly dispatched Lt. Col. Banastre Tarlton’s cavalry unit to capture members. Jefferson had already retired to nearby Monticello. In the confusion and disruption of normal government activity, the Assembly was unable to elect a new Governor, and so the state remained leaderless for almost a week.

When the Assembly did meet, it initiated an official inquiry into Governor Jefferson’s actions. Ultimately, the inquiry would go nowhere, but the criticism would shadow Jefferson for the rest of his life.

* * *

After Benedict Arnold’s attack on Richmond in January, Jefferson remained worried about the limited state resources and growing British threats.

He wrote to Congress: “The fatal want of arms puts it out of our power to bring a greater force into the field than will barely suffice to restrain the adventures of the pitiful body of men they have at Portsmouth. Should any others be added to them, this country will be perfectly open to them by land as well as by water.” (Letter … [ Read all ]