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Archive for '- Declaration of Independence'

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 ]

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

Joseph Siffrein Duplessis portrait of Benjamin Franklin c. 1785, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Joseph Siffrein Duplessis portrait of Benjamin Franklin c. 1785, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

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 … [ 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 ]

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!

Show your love of history with a National Archives temporary tattoo!

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
[ 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 ]