The U.S. Constitution at the National Archives
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The U.S. Constitution at the National Archives

August 26, 2019

We are in one of the three vaults at the National
Archives building in Washington, DC. I’m Trevor Plante. I’m currently the Acting
Chief of Reference at the National Archives. We work with people that come through the
door that are doing research. If anyone e-mails us, sends a fax, phone call, letter, then
we respond to those as well. The Constitution is on public display here
at the National Archives. We do have several remarkable documents that aren’t as well
known, that lead up to the Constitution. On May 29, 1787, a delegate from Virginia,
Edmund Randolph, introduced a plan that became known as the Virginia Plan. The significance
is, is this kind of laid the groundwork, or the framework, if you will, for what the Constitution
kind of rested on. “Resolved, that it is the opinion of this
committee that a national government ought to be established consisting of a supreme
legislative, judiciary and executive.” This is the first printed draft of the Constitution
as reported to the Convention by the Committee of Detail, August 6, 1787. And one of the
reasons I chose this, is it’s annotated by George Washington. This is a printed draft of the Constitution
that was brought to the Convention on September 13, 1787. This is as close to the final version
that you’re gonna find right before the final. Most of the debate was over and at
this point they were just finalizing what the Constitution would look like. They had
the final vote on September 15, 1787, and then signed the Constitution on September
17, 1787. Once the final vote was taken on the Constitution
then copies were sent to the 13 states. They had to be ratified. So what we’re looking
at here is the Pennsylvania ratification of the Constitution. If you’ve been to the
Rotunda at the National Archives, the Constitution, it’s multipage. The Pennsylvania delegates
have it down to one single sheet. Up here we have, “We the People of the United
States,” is written in very large script. Which is amazing when you look at how much
space it takes up. So obviously they felt that that was a very important part of the
original Constitution that they wanted to emphasize.

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