Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Archive for '- Constitution'

I am an American

September 17 marks the annual celebration known as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

On the morning of June 18, 2014, in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated a room full of 35 new American citizens and their families. Her speech marked the culmination of a process that individuals have taken part in since the founding of this nation—becoming naturalized citizens of the United States of America.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

Naturalization is the process by which a non-citizen acquires citizenship. Over the course of U.S. history, the process of naturalization has been subject to differing degrees of pomp and circumstance.

In 1940, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the third Sunday in May as “I Am An American Day.” Many towns and cities celebrated the new holiday with special ceremonies recognizing newly naturalized citizens.

In 1952, Congress re-named the holiday and moved it to September 17, but its purpose remained the same. Now called “Citizenship Day,” it commemorated the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and recognized “all who, by coming of age or by … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: The Judiciary Act of 1789

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789. (National Archives Identifier 1501550)

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789.
(National Archives Identifier 1501550)

Continuing our celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress the National Archives is displaying the original Judiciary Act of 1789.

For three months beginning September 17, 2014, you can see the landmark piece of legislation in the Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court but gave Congress the authority to create lower Federal courts at its discretion. One of the first actions the First Congress took was to establish a Federal court system.

On April 7, 1789—just one day after the Senate reached a quorum for the first time—the Senate appointed a committee to prepare a bill organizing the judiciary of the United States.

After two months of work, the committee reported the first bill ever introduced into the United States Senate—S. 1, a bill to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, what would become known as the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The bill’s principal author was Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. A key member at the Constitutional Convention, Ellsworth would eventually become Chief Justice of the United States in 1796.

President George Washington's Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

President George Washington’s Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Major provisions of … [ Read all ]

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 ]