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Archive for '- Revolutionary War'

In their own words: President George Washington

Washington at his inauguration in New York, April 30, 1789 (National Archives, 148-CCD-92C)

This is the first part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand.

As a registrar in the Exhibits Division of the National Archives for over 25 years, I have had the good fortune to work with many dedicated professionals at the National Archives. It has been a privilege to have access to the holdings, including the rarest of the rare. However, I always return to my favorites, the letters of the Founding Fathers.

Some of the most revealing letters come in a series of records blandly called Miscellaneous Letters in Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. Thanks to the irregularities of early recordkeeping, personal and official correspondence were sometimes mixed. These are draft letters or short notes with crossouts and annotations that illuminate the thoughts and work habits of the authors. The letters usually have to do with policy issues, but the topics are sometimes private and political. From the 1789 to early 1820s, there are hundreds of letters written by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.

In the official files of the early U.S. Government, we expect to find letters and memos on the subjects facing a youthful country: diplomacy, … [ Read all ]

A Matter of Simple Justice

The president’s directive of April 21, 1971. Barbara Hackman Franklin Papers, Penn State University Archives.

Today’s guest post was written by Barbara Hackman Franklin, former White House staff member for the recruitment of women and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The story of how Franklin and other women cracked the glass ceiling is finally told in a new book that draws from “A Few Good Women,” an oral history project at the Penn State University Libraries. The National Archives will host a special program to launch A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women on March 8.

The Nixon administration is remembered for many things, but advancing women’s roles in the workforce is usually not one of them. Yet in August 1972, Newsweek wrote that “the person in Washington who has done the most for the women’s movement may be Richard Nixon.”

Here is what happened.

First, on April 21, 1971, President Nixon issued a Memorandum for Cabinet Secretaries and Agency Heads outlining the administration’s new women’s initiative. The President called on all departments and agencies to create action plans to hire, promote, and advance women. Specifically, the plans had to address appointing more women to top-level positions, increasing the number of women in mid-level positions as well as on advisory boards and commissions.

This Presidential … [ Read all ]

The must-have Christmas gift of 1776

Washington Crossing the Delaware (66-G-15D)

Washington Crossing the Delaware (66-G-15D)

In 1864, Savannah, Georgia, was offered to Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present. But in 1776, George Washington delivered one of the greatest gifts in American history: the United States.

Winter was a bad season for Washington. His Continental Army had been driven out of New York, and then it was driven out of New Jersey, leaving just a few thousand men shivering on the far side of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, while the British made camp in New Jersey.

The Continental Army was desperate for a victory. Many men had left the military after finishing their enlistments. Others were low on morale after the series of bitter defeats. Santa, it appeared, was siding with the British forces.

On December 25, George Washington ordered the few thousand men at his disposal to cross the Delaware River. Ice flowed down its waters–further downstream a unit that was supposed to join him couldn’t cross because of the ice flow–but Washington forced his men across, and was one of the first to land on the shores of British-occupied New Jersey.

Through the cold night air and sleet and snow, his men marched another nine miles, and then in a few quick maneuvers, launched a surprise attack against the Hessian forces encamped at Trenton. He took a thousand soldiers prisoner. He killed … [ Read all ]

If our Founding Fathers had Twitter (Final!)

thumbbill2We here at the National Archives noticed that many politicians these days use Twitter to deliver messages. Often this involves using numbers instead of letters, and symbols to convey a complex point in just a few words.

So we asked our readers: “what if the authors of the Bill of Rights only had 140 characters per amendment?” Last week we started counting down from Amendment X and we’ve posted the winning results below.

Archivist David Ferriero picked the pithiest tweets and the winners will receive a reproduction of the Bill of Rights, compliments of the National Archives eStore. You have three chances left to play! Today we’re tweeting the Second Amendment, and tomorrow we’re tweeting both the First Amendment and giving out a prize to the person who can best summarize the ENTIRE Bill of Rights in just 140 characters. Use #BillofRights to play and to follow along!

Amend Original Text Twitter Version Winner
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. Power to the People! (conditions apply, void where prohibited) @azaroth42
IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Standard rights still apply. @jwt3K
VIII Excessive bail shall
[ Read all ]

Join our Bill of Rights Twitter Contest

bill_of_rights_pg1of1_ac1

Readers, we now live in a brave new world of abbreviation. What was once Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC. What was once the Science Fiction Channel is now SyFy. For many people, this sentence makes sense: “IMHO this is NSFW” (for the record, this post is). Even the National Archives hasn’t been spared: sometimes we call it the Natty Arches or the Chives.

In this great condensing of America, one item has been spared, however. The Bill of Rights–that great document that contains the first ten amendments to the Constitution–hasn’t been abridged by a single punctuation mark. Until now.

It’s time the Bill of Rights got a hip new upgrade and we need your help. From today through December 15–the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights–we’re asking you to condense each of those amendments into separate bite-sized tweets.

The rules are simple: on the appropriate day shorten the assigned amendment down to as few words (or letters) as possible while retaining the amendment’s meaning, then Tweet us your response using the hashtag #BillofRights.

There’s no limit to how many times you post, and we promise that there will be no actual abridging of the Bill of Rights–this is just a way to think about one of our most important documents. So tweet your hearts out!

We’ve posted the schedule below, and every day on Facebook … [ Read all ]