Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney’s cotton gin, for which he applied for a patent on October 28, 1793, and received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America, but also led to an increased dependence on the plantation system and slavery.
Rare Printing: United States Constitution
This month, rare printing of the United States Constitution underwent conservation treatment in the lab at Archives I. The record, consisting of two sheets of paper, was printed by New York printer John McLean on September 29, 1787 and shortly thereafter was attached to the RG 360 Resolve Book of the Continental Congress. At some point, the record was removed from the volume and joined as a folio with adhesives that, over time, stained the left edge of each sheet.
Conservation treatment focused on removing these adhesives to the extent possible with solvents on a vacuum suction table. The solvents were applied to the affected areas in order to solubilize the old adhesives which were then pulled through the paper into a blotter below. Once the adhesives were removed, the sheets were washed in purified water, sized with gelatin, and then dried and flattened. After digital imaging, the record will be returned to the Resolve Book.
To the President of Congress
[Philadelphia, 17 September 1787]
We have now the Honor to submit to the Consideration of the United States in Congress assembled that Constitution which has appeared to us the most advisable.
The Friends of our Country have long seen and desired that the Power of making War Peace and Treaties, that of levying Money & regulating Commerce and the correspondent executive and judicial Authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general Government of the Union. But the Impropriety of delegating such extensive Trust to one Body of Men is evident—Hence results the Necessity of a different Organization.
It is obviously impracticable in the fœderal Government Of these States to secure all Rights of independent Sovereignty to each and yet provide for the Interest and Safety of all—Individuals entering into Society must give up a Share of Liberty to preserve the Rest. The Magnitude of the Sacrifice must depend as well on Situations and Circumstances as on the Object to be obtained. It is at all Times difficult to draw with Precision the Lines between those Rights which must be surrendered and those which may be reserved. And on the present Occasion this Difficulty was encreased by a Difference among the several States as to their Situation Extent Habits and particular Interests.
In all our Deliberations on this Subject we kept steadily in our View that which appears to us the greatest Interest of every true american the Consolidation of our Union in which is involved our Prosperity Felicity Safety perhaps our national Existence. this important Consideration seriously and deeply impressed on our Minds led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on Points of inferior Magnitude than might have been otherwise expected. And thus the Constitution which we now present is the Result of a Spirit of Amity and of that mutual Deference & Concession which the Peculiarity of our political Situation rendered indispensible.
That it will meet the full and entire Approbation of every State is not perhaps to be expected. But each will doubtless consider that had her Interests been alone consulted the Consequences might have been particularly disagreable or injurious to others. That it is liable to as few Exceptions as could reasonably have been expected we hope and believe That it may promote the lasting Welfare of that Country so dear to us all and secure her Freedom and Happiness is our most ardent wish.
Happy Constitution Day! The Constitution is 226 years old, and is the oldest written constitution still in use today. It is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. You can see a high-res image and read a transcript of the Constitution here: http://go.usa.gov/D5VR
Top Five Facts about the Constitution!
Five: The Constitution has 4,543 words, including the signatures. It takes about 30 minutes to read.
Four: Two of the first 12 amendments submitted were rejected; the remaining ten became the Bill of Rights.
Three: The Chief Justice is mentioned in the Constitution, but the number of Justices is not specified.
Two: Only one amendment to the Constitution has been repealed: the 18th (Prohibition).
One: The Constitution does not give us our rights and liberties, but it does guarantee them.
For more Constitution myth busting, read today’s blog post: http://go.usa.gov/D5kJ
We the People
of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Engrossed Declaration of Independence, August 2, 1776; Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration set forth a list of grievances of the American colonies against the British Crown and declared they were breaking from British rule to form free and independent states.
On July 19, 1776, Congress resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile [sic] “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America” and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress. The engrossing was most likely done by Timothy Matlack, an assistant to Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress. Although it bears the date “July 4, 1776,” the engrossed Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, by members of the Continental Congress who were present that day and later by other members of Congress. A total of 56 delegates eventually signed the document.
To George Bryan
Head Qrs [Valley Forge]
½ after 11 A.M. June 18th 1778
I have the pleasure to inform you, that I was this minute advised by Mr Roberts’s, that the Enemy evacuated the City early this morning. He was down at the Middle ferry on this side, where he received the intelligence from a number of Citizens, who were on the opposite shore. The destruction of the Bridge prevented him passing. I have not yet had any Official accounts on the subject, but there are many in corroboration of Mr Roberts’s. I congratulate you very heartily on this interesting event and have the Honor to be in haste Sir Yr Most Obedt servt
The city of Philadelphia was abandoned by the British Army 235 years ago on June 18, 1778, as relayed in this letter from George Washington.
Find more references to the evacuation of Philadelphia and other events on June 18, 1778 in the Founders Online!
Yesterday afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. A partnership between the University of Virginia Press and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, you can read more about this massive undertaking at Prologue: The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online
National History Day winners had the honor of making the inaugural search, reportedly using the keyword “Cheese.”
But what kind of cheese did the Founders favor? We found at least 2 hits for “Stilton” — the “king” of cheeses. Maybe some intrepid Tumblarians can find a more egalitarian variety within?
"…throw down your arms, ye Villians, ye Rebels…"
From the Massachusetts State Papers from 1775 - 1787, in the Papers of the Continental Congress
The Revolutionary War’s first battle—reported firsthand
John Robins (under the command of Captain John Parker) gave this account of the battle of Lexington, Massachusetts from April 19, 1775. Robins supports his commander’s account reporting that the militia began dispersing when they were fired upon by a thousand of the King’s troops being led by three mounted officers. Robins was wounded in the action. This deposition, which was delivered to the Massachusetts Assembly and later forwarded to the Continental Congress, presents the American perception of the battle.
Transcript for President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor— and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be— That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions— to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
First launched 215 years ago October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution remains the oldest commissioned naval warship afloat. This sail plan was recently treated in the preservation lab, as highlighted during the Preservation 2012 conference.
Today we mark the 200th anniversary of the USS Constitution’s defeat of the HMS Guerriere in which she earned the name “Old Ironsides” for the cannonballs that bounced over her sides. An 1890 tracing by A H Dutton of her sail drawing is in the lab. Treatment will remove pressure sensitive tape and stains from the tracing linen, made from a drawing by Charles Ware in 1817.
On Sunday, the USS Constitution sailed across Boston Harbor to commemorate the battle, for the first time since the bicentennial in 1997 of its launching.
Even the most important document in the United States has mistakes! This is the “errata” note on the fourth page of the Constitution.
Jacob Shallus inserted this after he was done “engrossing” the final document. He was under a tight deadline:Arthur Plotnik estimates that Shallus had about 40 hours between receiving the drafts and handing back the engrossed parchment, but that after accounting for eating and sleeping, the number of working hours was more likely 35. Plotnik estimates the “slowest possible pace” to be about 160 words an hour. Shallus had to write over 4,000 words.
The Constitution is on permanent display in the National Archives building in Washington, DC. The “fifth page” of the Constitution, also engrossed by Jacob Shallus will be on display from September 14 to 19 in honor of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution.
On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison of Virginia introduced a series of proposed amendments to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution. That summer the House of Representatives debated the issue and on August 24 passed seventeen proposed constitutional amendments. The Senate then took up the matter — they altered and consolidated the House amendments into 12. This printed document reflects the Senate’s changes as passed on September 14, 1789. The line-outs on the first, third and eighth articles indicate wording that had been amended in conference committee on September 24, 1789. Twelve articles of amendment were then sent to the states — articles three through twelve were ratified and became the Bill of Rights in 1791.
Proposed Amendments to the Constitution as passed by the Senate, 9/14/1789, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 2173242)