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Archive for '- Constitution'

The burning of Washington

August 24, 2014, marks the 200th anniversary of the British burning of Washington during the War of 1812.

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart. (National Archives Identifier 532933)

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart.
(National Archives Identifier 532933)

In August 1814, British forces occupying the Chesapeake Bay began to sail up the Patuxent River in Maryland. Fearing an attack on the capital, Secretary of State James Monroe offered to scout the British position and report back to President James Madison. Monroe, accompanied by cavalry, left Washington and rode into southern Maryland.

On August 19 and 20, the British landed troops at the port town of Benedict, Maryland, and started advancing north. By August 22, it became clear to Monroe that the British intended to invade Washington. He quickly dispatched a messenger with a note to Madison, saying: “The enemy are advanced six miles on the road to the Woodyard, and our troops retiring. Our troops were on the march to meet them, but in too small a body to engage. . . . The enemy are in full march for Washington. Have the materials prepared to destroy the bridges.”

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

In the postscript, Monroe added: “You had better remove the records.”

Before Congress created the National Archives, it required each executive department to keep … [ Read all ]

Featured Document: Senate Revisions to the Proposed Bill of Rights

Senate Revisions to the Proposed Bill of Rights, page 1, 9/9/1789. (National Archives Identifier 3535588)

Senate Revisions to the Proposed Bill of Rights, page 1, 9/9/1789. (National Archives Identifier 3535588)

Continuing our celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress, the National Archives is displaying a draft of the Bill of Rights from August 12 to September 11, 2014, in the East Rotunda Gallery.

During the 1787–1788 Constitutional ratification process, opponents criticized the Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights. They argued that the Constitution should include one, because without it a strong central government would trample individuals’ liberties and freedoms.

As states debated whether to ratify the Constitution or not, two kinds of amendments emerged: rights-related amendments (amendments intended to protect individuals) and structural amendments (amendments intended to fundamentally alter the structure of the new government).

In the end, enough states supported the Constitution without amendments that it was ratified without changes. However, the effort to amend the Constitution carried over into the first Federal elections. Anti-Federalists—those who opposed the Constitution—pushed to elect pro-amendment members to the First Federal Congress.

James Madison. (National Archives Identifier 532836)

James Madison. (National Archives Identifier 532836)

This was especially true in Virginia, a state whose ratification convention proposed 20 amendments and a separate bill of rights to the Constitution.

In one Virginia House race, James Madison—who opposed amendments—faced James Monroe—who supported them. Because Virginia had such strong anti-Federalist sentiments, Madison softened his stand against Constitutional amendments, which … [ Read all ]

The Origins of Senatorial Courtesy

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, an Outreach Specialist at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.

Nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn and others to be Port Collectors, etc., August 3, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn and others to be Port Collectors, etc., August 3, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, on August 3, 1789, President George Washington sent the Senate a seven-page list of nominees for port collectors. Several days before, he had signed an act establishing a system for collecting import taxes at the ports, and he acted quickly to staff the customs system so the new government could establish a steady flow of revenue.

The government’s inability to raise adequate revenue under the Articles of Confederation was one of the main reasons the Constitution had been adopted just the year before.

Washington sent his list of nominees to the Senate in observance of the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate give its “advice and consent” to Federal officers. The neatly prepared document listed each port and the positions to be filled.

The name of each nominee appears next to each position. Next to each name, a clerk in the Senate noted the outcome of the Senate’s votes. “Aye” … [ Read all ]

The Oath of Office: The First Act of the First Congress

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, Archives Specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.

When the First Congress met in New York City in March of 1789, they faced an enormous undertaking. The new Constitution had just been ratified, and Congress was the first part of the new Federal government to meet and take shape. Ahead of them lay numerous important and urgent tasks: they needed to create the Treasury, War, and Foreign Affairs departments; the Federal judiciary; and a system of taxation and collection. They also needed to determine patent and copyright laws, rules for naturalization, the location of a new capital city, administration of the census, amendments to the Constitution, and much more.

But before the members of Congress could get to all of this pressing business, there was something more important they needed to do—so important that it was the first bill introduced in the House of Representatives, and the first act signed into law by President George Washington.

An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths, June 1, 1789. Records of the General Government, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 596341

An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths, June 1, 1789. Records of the General Government, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 596341

“An Act … [ Read all ]

Sleepover at the National Archives!

sleepover

You can’t snuggle with the Constitution, but you can sleep next to it! This sleepover in the Rotunda is open to children ages 8-12, accompanied by an adult. Registration fees are $125 per person (discounted to $100 per person for Foundation members).

Participants get to meet author Brad Meltzer, who will set the way for an evening of historical missions and discovery. Learn to decode Civil War ciphers, write with a quill pen, dress up in period clothing, and play with historic toys and games from our patent collection.

Children will also get to meet journalist and author Cokie Roberts, and interact with historical characters Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart. The evening wraps up with a selection of Oscar-nominated short films in the William G. McGowan Theater.

Participants will receive the first two books in Brad Meltzer’s brand new children’s series, I am Abraham Lincoln and I am Amelia Earhart. Written by Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, each book tells the real-life story of an ordinary person who changed the world.

Schedule

7 p.m.         Check-in & Orientation
8 p.m.         Museum Exploration and Activities
9:30 p.m.   Movie Shorts from the Oscars
11 p.m.        Lights Out
7:30 a.m.    Breakfast, Shopping, and Trivia
9 a.m.          Departure

For more information go to the Foundation’s sleepover page. To register, download the Sleepover Registration packet, … [ Read all ]