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Tag: washington

The Bill of Rights: 14 Originals

Bill of Rights Day  is on December 15. The National Archives will celebrate on Friday with a naturalization ceremony. Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, the Historian of the National Archives.

On September 28, 1789, Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg and Vice President John Adams signed the enrolled copy of the first proposed amendments to the new Constitution—the document later known as the Bill of Rights.

The final, signed copy contained the 12 constitutional amendments that Congress proposed to the states. Shortly after it was signed, clerks created 13 additional copies, which President George Washington sent to the 11 existing states and to Rhode Island and North Carolina—which had not yet adopted the Constitution.

The enrolled version of the amendments—the one signed on September 28, 1789—remained in New York until it was sent to Philadelphia when the seat of government moved there. In 1800 it came to the new capital of Washington, DC, and was only removed briefly during the War of 1812 when the British burned the capital.

The Department of State, previously responsible for safeguarding the Federal Government’s official records, kept the enrolled copy of the Bill of Rights until 1938, when they transferred it to the National Archives in 1938 along with other State Department records. The National Archives displayed the enrolled copy of the Bill of Rights several times until … [ Read all ]

Tasty tidbits for your Thanksgiving table

The best thing about Thanksgiving is gathering around the table, stuffing your faces with turkey, and enjoying the pleasant and agreeable conversation with your extended family. Right? Well, to keep the happy conversation flowing, here’s some fun facts about Thanksgiving to keep your family distracted from explosive topics (you know what they are at your house) while they digest that second slice of pumpkin pie.

We associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but the holiday wasn’t official until October 3, 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.

 

It’s the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving declaration. One hundred and fifty years ago, he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and asked that those being thankful also “commend to His [God's] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” The President declared that Thanksgiving would be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

 

The tug-of-war between Thanksgiving and holiday shopping started years ago during the Great Depression. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy, which was … [ Read all ]

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.”

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 thank heaven they have adopted a third Branch, which that Congress did not. I think

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Suffrage and suffering at the 1913 March

Today’s blog post comes from Jessie Kratz, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives. If you are participating in the 100th anniversary of the parade on Sunday, stop by the National Archives to see the document that finally gave women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment is on display from March 1 to March 8.

As woman suffrage advocates marched along Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913, they were met with crowds of unruly men blocking their paths and shouting derogatory remarks.

While making preparations for the parade, organizers had made repeated attempts to secure police protection—they even contacted the Secretary of War seeking assistance from the U.S. military. Richard H. Sylvester, Chief of DC Police, had assured organizers that he could manage the situation without the military, but he ultimately failed to control the crowd.

The poor treatment of the marchers sparked immediate outrage.

The day after the parade, the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the Committee on the District of Columbia to investigate the police’s handling of the incident. The committee collected evidence and heard from over 100 witnesses, including parade organizer and suffragist Alice Paul; Julia Lathrop, chief of the Children’s Bureau; parade attendees from around the country; and witnesses who spoke on behalf of the Metropolitan Police.

The women testified about their experiences—some noted the lack of police … [ Read all ]

All you need to know about inaugurations

 

George Washington

As the first President, Washington set many inaugural precedents, but his inaugurations were also very different in ways that would not be repeated. The oath of office is usually administered the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during the ceremony. The first President had not yet appointed any Supreme Court Justices, and so he was sworn in by Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor of New York.  For his second inauguration, Washington was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice William Cushing. Washington is the only President whose inauguration was held in two different cities: New York and Philadelphia. Washington also set the precedent of swearing on a Bible, a tradition followed by succeeding Presidents.

Location

The Constitution does not dictate where the inauguration should happen, and so the actual location has varied from city to building to room. Washington’s first  inauguration took place in New York on a second-floor balcony of Federal Hall, with a crowd assembled in the streets below. Washington’s second inauguration and John Adams’s only inauguration were held in Philadelphia. Even when the ceremony was held in the new capital city, the location still varied. Jefferson, the first President to be inaugurated in Washington, DC, took the oath twice in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol. James Monroe caused a political firestorm in 1817 when he offered to take the … [ Read all ]