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Archive for November, 2012

No, it’s not in the Constitution

You can see the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

These days, pundits, candidates, and party activists like to cite the Constitution of the United States as the moral and legal backing for whatever they’re proposing.

But the Constitution is silent on a lot of things you probably thought it said. Here are eight examples.

The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

No. He has nothing to do with the amendments. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote of both houses, or a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. However, once the amendment is proposed either by Congress or a convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.

The “Founding Fathers” who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are the same men who wrote the Constitution in 1787.

Only five individuals signed both of these two founding documents. They were George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, and Roger Sherman. Some of the famous signers of the Declaration were elsewhere when the Constitution was being written. Thomas Jefferson was in France as our American minister, and John Adams was American minister to Great Britain.… [ Read all ]

Looking for “Wikileaks”?

Can you search for “Wikileaks” on the National Archives web site? Yes and no.

On Saturday morning, November 3, we learned via Twitter that a search for “Wikileaks” on the National Archives web site archives.gov brought up an error notice stating that the URL was banned. However, even at the same time, a search for “Wiki leaks” in the same search box generated five or six search results.

The banned URL message was an error. We alerted our IT team first thing Monday morning, November 5, and the erroneous blocking rule that produced the error was removed. A search for the term “wikileaks” now generates over two dozen results.

However, while you can now search for both the terms “Wikileaks” and “Wiki leaks” on archives.gov, you will not find the Wikileaks documents. Wikileaks documents remain classified and are not in National Archives custody.

The National Archives holds only permanently archived records, entrusted to us by Federal agencies. Records that are publicly available in the National Archives research facilities nationwide and on archives.gov are no longer classified (or classified parts have been redacted). Each record in our search engines has been reviewed by our archivists before being digitized and posted online.

The National Archives promotes openness, transparency, participation, and collaboration. We appreciate this error being brought to our attention. We value public feedback and continue … [ Read all ]

To Choose a President

Today’s post originally appeared in the 2012 Summer Issue of Prologue magazine, and was written by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.

The Electoral College. Established 1787.

It isn’t really a college, and the electors aren’t tenured professors.

The electors are really voters, and their votes count in a very big way.

The electors were created by the Constitution to do only one thing: elect the President and Vice President of the United States. The Electoral College became part of the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, when delegates assembled to devise something to replace the Articles of Confederation.

Some delegates wanted Congress to choose the President, but that would have upset the balance of power among the three branches of government. Others called for direct popular vote, but that would have left the decision in the hands of ill-informed voters who knew little about politicians outside their home state.

So they created electors. And they hoped the electors would be some of brightest and best informed people who would base their decisions on the candidates’ merit. (Each state gets as many electoral votes as it has members in the Senate and House.)

Today, the Electoral College’s activities are overseen by the National Archives. We delegate this duty to our Office of the Federal Register, which every … [ Read all ]