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Archive for September, 2013

Eight myths about the Constitution

Only 5 men signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One of the was Benjamin Franklin (National Archives Identifier 532849)

Only 5 men signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One of them was Benjamin Franklin. (National Archives Identifier 532849)

Constitution Day is September 17. We’ve got events, programs, and activities at National Archives locations across the United States.

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. Or they say that something an opponent proposes is unconstitutional.

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Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.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

“A Signal Victory”: The Battle of Lake Erie

Our new Featured Document–Oliver Perry’s letter to the Secretary of the Navy–will be on display from September 10 to 19, 2014, at the National Archives in Washington, DCToday’s blog post was written by former student employee Meghan O’Connor.

Early in the War of 1812, the Americans lost control of Detroit and Lake Erie to the British and their Native American allies. The U.S. Navy sent 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry to Lake Erie to build a squadron and retake that important waterway.

On September 10, 1813, the Americans defeated the British on Lake Erie. Commodore Perry declared the naval battle “a signal victory.” In a war marked by early failures, this victory secured Ohio and the territories of Michigan and Indiana. It also provided a needed boost in national morale and marked a rare surrender of a complete Royal Navy squadron.

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813(National Archives)

Oliver Perry’s letter to Secretary of the Navy, September 10, 1813 (National Archives)

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813

With a crew that Perry once described as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers and boys,” the Americans met Britain’s powerful Royal Navy on Lake Erie. A flag flew above Perry’s ship, the Lawrence, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle cry was the dying command, in an earlier battle, of Perry’s friend … [ Read all ]

The people are voting. And the winner is . . . up to you!

Today’s blog post comes from Bruce Bustard, curator at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Page Header_VOTE

“Exercise your right to vote! This time, help shape the new exhibition space at the National Archives.” David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

The National Archives invites you to choose an original document for our new exhibition.

America’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—are icons of liberty. But the ideals enshrined in those documents did not initially apply to all Americans. They were, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”

“Records of Rights,” a permanent exhibition in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, allows visitors to explore how generations of Americans sought to fulfill this promise of freedom. “Records of Rights” showcases original and facsimile National Archives documents to illustrate how Americans throughout our history have debated and discussed issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

Now everyone can join this debate and help the curators select the first original landmark document to be featured for the November 8 opening. Make your mark at the “Records of Rights Vote,” an online poll where you can help choose the opening document to be displayed.

The documents under consideration are:

  • The
[ Read all ]