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Archive for August, 2012

Constitution 225: Blueprint for the Electoral College

Commission of David Brearly to be an elector for the state of New Jersey for the purpose of choosing a President and Vice President of the United States, 01/07/1789 (ARC 306228)

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

By the end of August, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were tired. They had been convening and debating for the entire summer, and they sensed they were nearing a finished product.

Throughout August, much of the debate had revolved around the report delivered by the Committee of Detail early in the month. The delegates had discussed at great length that committee’s report, but there were several issues on which they suspended debate before reaching a decision. On August 31, those postponed matters were referred to another committee comprising one delegate from each state and chaired by David Brearly of New Jersey.

This “Committee of eleven,” as Madison referred to it in his journal notes, considered each of the postponed matters and reported back to the Convention during the first week of September with proposals. Included in the committee’s proposals were providing Congress the authority to collect taxes, assigning the Vice President to preside over the Senate, and specifying

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Constitution 225: No crown for you!

Royal Crown of the Hungarian Royal Holy Crown Jewels, recovered by the U.S. Army during World War II when this photo was taken on August 3, 1945.

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

Have you ever dreamed of being addressed as King or Queen or Prince or Princess or Viscount or Duchess or Lord or Dauphin? If you are a U.S. citizen, don’t expect that dream to come true—the United States does not confer titles of nobility.

On Thursday, August 23, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed to explicitly prohibit the new government from conferring such titles.

The restriction simultaneously emphasized the republican spirit throughout the Constitution and the deliberate difference from the government of Great Britain. The prohibition on conferring titles of nobility survives today in Article 1, Section 9, of the Constitution.

(If you still want to chase that dream, however, just prove yourself of great value to a nation that does not have an Article 1, Section 9!)



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Constitution 225: The Committee of Detail

George Washington's Annotated Copy of a Draft of the U.S. Constitution, National Archives Identifier 1501555


Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution. Don’t miss our special programs, events, and social media outreach this September in honor of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution.

By July 23, 1787, the Constitutional Convention had been meeting for over two months. The delegates had refined many of the proposals initially laid out in the Virginia Plan and added a few others as well. The resolutions adopted by the Convention contained the broad strokes of the new government’s design, and the delegates recognized the time had come to fill in the spaces between them.

After two months of debating as a full body, the delegates recognized it would not be the most effective forum for the task before them. They consequently appointed a committee of five individuals to capture the resolutions to date and weave them together in to a single document.

John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, Nathaniel Gorham, Oliver Ellsworth, and James Wilson were appointed to the Committee of Detail. The rest of the delegates adjourned from July 27 through August 5, giving the Committee of Detail a week and a half to prepare the first draft of the Constitution.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Hang ten, Pat Nixon!

First Lady Pat Nixon talking with surfers near Border Field, CA, on August 18, 1971. (Nixon Presidential Library)

Some time ago, a Facebook fan expressed thanks that we would never combine our First Ladies Friday with our Facial Hair Friday. To which we replied, never say never! Of course, the facial hair in this photograph is not on First Lady Pat Nixon, but that scraggly surfer goatee is in very close proximity to Pat, so we are going to count it as a two-for-one.

The First Lady had just finished a land-grant ceremony at Border Field, CA, to create a new park area at the U.S.-Mexico border for the Legacy of the Parks Program. Border Field State Park is 15 miles south of San Diego, CA. When the U.S.-Mexico War ended in 1848, delegations from both countries began surveying the boundary at this location in 1850. Border Monument number 258 can be seen from inside the park, but it no longer can be reached because there are border fences on both sides. When the First Lady was there, there was only barbed wire, and she was able to reach out and greet the Mexican citizens who had gathered on the other side.

The park is in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Threatened and endangered birds like the Western Snowy Plover and the Light-footed Clapper Rail now live … [ Read all ]

A warning from the Surgeon General about air conditioning

Letter from the Surgeon General regarding air conditioning at the National Archives, page 1 (holdings of the National Archives)

Rick Blondo, management and program analyst at the National Archives, reflects on the logistics of maintaining records in the sweltering humidity that is summer in Washington, DC.

Summer in Washington can be a wilting experience for tourists and locals alike, but not so for the holdings maintained in the National Archives.

The National Archives was one of the first buildings in Washington with air conditioning. The building was designed in the 1930s to safeguard the records of the United States in an environment suited to that purpose.

The vault-like structure included an air conditioning system that could maintain 70 degrees in winter and 80 degrees in summer throughout the entire building. Relative humidity was kept at 55 percent in stacks and 45 percent in workrooms.

The holdings collected in the stacks would be cool, but officials wondered if the relatively cool air elsewhere in the building would pose a health problem to staff.

Louis A. Simon, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the National Archives, asked the Surgeon General to provide an opinion about whether exposure to conditioned air (and also a high amount of artificial lighting) posed a health risk to those who would work in the building.

The Surgeon General, H.S. Cumming, determined that … [ Read all ]