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Tag: President

Constitution 225: The President

Portrait of George Washington, 12/31/1820 (ARC 192421)

 

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.

The President of the United States is one of the most famous positions in the world. But the first draft of the job description was profoundly different from what it has become today. When the Constitutional Convention took up debate about the role of President, they had not yet named the position. In his notes, Madison refers to the position by various terms, including “Executive Magistrate,” “Nat’l Executive,” and simply “the Executive.”

Naming convention was not the only source of debate. The delegates wavered between a term in office lasting six or seven years before finally agreeing on four years. They considered electing the President by either a popular vote or through appointment by the legislature before developing the Electoral College as a compromise between the two.

The convention resolved early on that one person should be vested with the power of the executive branch. As the list of executive responsibilities grew, the delegates also provided for subordinate members of the executive branch, including the Vice President and the cabinet. These provisions form the foundation for most of today’s Federal agencies, including … [ Read all ]

History Crush: George Washington

George Washington, the Virginia Colonel: 1772. ARC Identifier 532861

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 … [ Read all ]

Inside the Vaults: George Washington and the Paparazzi

America is a celebrity-crazed nation, a place where movie stars, musicians, and even politicians are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. But you may be surprised to learn that our national fascination with fame predates Hollywood and the modern media.

The proof is in an original letter written by President Washington to his friend, Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia, on July 3, 1792.

In the letter, which is currently on display in the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives, President Washington complains about the persistent inquiries of portrait artists: “I am so heartily tired of these kinds of people that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them.” As National Archives curator Alice Kamps explains in the video below, 18th-century artists were the equivalent of the modern paparazzi.

In celebration of the 280th birthday of America’s first President, the National Archives has released this short documentary video, “George Washington and the Paparazzi.” The three-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults” series on our YouTube channel.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Shiloh and Sideburns

Grant, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S.; three-quarter-length, standing. ARC 558720

Grant, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S.; three-quarter-length, standing. ARC 558720

There’s something appealing about this pensive photograph of Ulysses S. Grant, from his somber clothes to his wistful gaze. He doesn’t seem like someone who saw  some of the bloodiest fighting at Shiloh.

Unlike many of our other featured Facial Hairs of the Civil War era, Grant’s beard is not a runaway avalanche of hair, nor is it attempting to creep out from under his collar and up his face.

Grant’s beard is neatly trimmed, and his hair tidily slicked back. It’s an oddly timeless look.

When I go to museums and look at portraits of Americans, I like to imagine them in modern clothes. Some people, like the Leavenworth inmates, seem firmly rooted in thier time. But I can imagine Grant in modern-day clothes, perhaps headed off to teach a college history class.

This month marked the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. For Grant, April would be an important month. On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to Grant, ending the Civil War.

Of course, General Grant went on to other things after the Civil War. He was the 18th President of the United States, from 1869-1877.

But this picture seems even more poignant considering the end of his life. After the Presidency, Grant was a partner in a financial firm that went bankrupt. He … [ Read all ]