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Tag: President

Taking the Constitution for a Test Drive

Today’s Constitution Day guest post was written by Jim Zeender, senior registrar in exhibits at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

The Constitution of the United States turned 226 this year and continues to be the oldest and longest-serving written constitution in the world. It consists of exactly 4,543 words and has been amended only 27 times.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787, the attendees had various opinions on the result of the Convention. Benjamin Franklin has probably been quoted most often from his speech that day, “I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present, but Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it.”

Independence Hall

Exterior of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was signed. (National Archives Identifier 518208)

John Adams was not present in Philadelphia.  He was in London, serving as the U.S. envoy to Great Britain. Adams received a copy of the new constitution from Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry, and he later praised the Convention’s work in a letter to Jefferson, who was in Paris.

It seems to be admirably calculated to preserve the Union, to increase Affection, and to bring us all to the same mode of thinking. They have adopted the Idea of the Congress at Albany in 1754 of a President to nominate officers and a Council to Consent: but

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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 ]

90 letters in 90 days: The courtship of Lady Bird and LBJ

“I do believe before the day was over he did ask me to marry him and I thought he was just out of his mind.” Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor

LBJ sent this photo to Lady Bird during their courtship. The caption reads "For Bird--A lovely girl with ideals, principles, intelligence, and refinement from her sincere admirer, Lyndon" (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

Two teenagers in love might exchange hundreds of texts on their phones. But during their two-and-a-half month courtship, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor were each writing a letter—and sometimes even two—every day in a constant overlapping correspondence between Washington, DC, and Karnack, Texas.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library is releasing love letters between the future President and the First Lady. Most of the letters have not been seen before by the public, and they offer a glimpse into the feelings and thoughts of the couple during this intense courtship.

It was a whirlwind romance. LBJ was 26, and Lady Bird was just 22 years old. They met in the office of a mutual friend in Austin, Texas, in September of 1934. Although LBJ had a date that night, he asked Lady Bird to meet him for breakfast. The breakfast date turned into a day-long affair as the pair drove around Austin.… [ Read all ]

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 ]

The Electoral College: Then and Now

Today’s guest post comes from Miriam Vincent, staff attorney at the Federal Register.

The founding fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. However, the term “electoral college” does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.” —from the Electoral College website run by the Office of the Federal Register

Why do we have the Electoral College? There was a concern that even qualified citizens (generally white, male landowners) wouldn’t have the information necessary to make a truly informed decision.  Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of an Electoral College in Federalist Paper No. 68, with an opposing view coming from an anonymous source in Federalist Paper No. 72. (You can find both online.) Our Founding Fathers decided to give the States the authority to appoint educated, well-read electors to vote on behalf of their citizens.

As the Constitution makes clear, the States elect the President and Vice President; individuals don’t.

Tally of the 1824 Electoral College Vote, 02/09/1825 (ARC 306207)

The Modern Day Electoral College: After only a few years, it became clear that that electing a President and Vice President from different political parties … [ Read all ]