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Tag: declaration of independence

In their own words: John Adams and Ben Franklin, Part I

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in National Archives Exhibits.

John Adams of Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania crossed paths during “critical moments” in the earliest days of the republic. They met for the first time at the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia in 1774, the first joint meeting of 12 American colonies (Georgia did not attend). Both were supporters of independence, Adams most publicly and Franklin more behind the scenes, though both were equally masterful wordsmiths.

During the Revolutionary War, Adams and Franklin worked together in Paris to obtain French support for the American cause, sometimes clashing on how best to do so. ­And they successfully negotiated peace with Great Britain. They saw each other for the last time in 1785, when Adams left Franklin in Paris for his assignment as the first Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain from the United States. During the years in between, their relationship had its ups and downs.

Their most intimate experience probably happened during an unsuccessful peace mission in September 1776. The British forces had recently raced across Long Island (New York) and almost destroyed the American Army. The British commander, Adm. Lord Richard Howe, then offered peace. Congress sent Adams, Franklin, and … [ Read all ]

History Crush: George Washington

Today’s History Crush post is from archives technician Timothy Duskin, who confesses that his admiration for our first President has only increased since researching the records related to George Washington at the National Archives.

I have always considered George Washington to be the greatest Founding Father, the greatest President, and the greatest American. Two years ago, I gave a “Know Your Records” lecture on records related to George Washington at the National Archives. My sentiments were reinforced in the course of my research for that lecture and they have remained the same ever since.

As a major in the Virginia militia, Washington delivered the demand of Virginia Governor Dinwiddie to vacate the Ohio Valley to the French in 1753. He was responsible for starting the French and Indian War in 1754, when he became commander of the Virginia Regiment and eventually became the war’s foremost hero.

Washington’s political career began when he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761, where he took up the cause of the North American colonies. He was then elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, which appointed him General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army at the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

After the Boston Tea Party, counties in all of the colonies passed resolves to address their grievances with England. Washington and George Mason authored … [ Read all ]

A homecoming for six pages of parchment

Although the National Archives Building was nearly completed in 1935, the Rotunda sat empty.

Then, on December 13, 1952, an armored Marine Corps personnel carrier made its way down Constitution Avenue, accompanied by two light tanks, four servicemen carrying submachine guns, and a motorcycle escort. A color guard, ceremonial troops, the Army Band, and the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps were also part of the procession. Members of all the military branches lined the street.

Inside the personnel carrier were six parchment documents. The records were in helium-filled glass cases packed inside wooden crates resting on mattresses.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were going to the National Archives.

In 1926, $1 million was appropriated for a national archives building, and in 1930 President Hoover appointed an Advisory Committee for the National Archives to draw up specifications for the building. John Russell Pope was selected as architect, and a year later, ground was broken. By 1933, the cornerstone of the building had been put in place by President Herbert Hoover. Staff were working in the unfinished building by 1935.

But despite this flurry of activity, the vault-like building did not house the founding documents that we call the “Charters of Freedom.”

The documents had been shuttled around to various buildings for various reasons. They started out in the Department of State, and as the capital moved from New York to Philadelphia to Washington, DC, these documents moved too. Eventually … [ Read all ]

The Constitution has a Facebook Page

While the Constitution may not update it’s own writing too often (the last time was in 1992), it does update its own Facebook page. So why not head on over and see what’s on the Constitution’s mind? The Constitution will be keeping tabs on the 1787 Constitutional Convention up until September 17 on the Notes tab. Have a look and check back often to see what’s new with our nation’s founding document.… [ Read all ]