tv Authors Discuss the Preservation of Americas Founding Documents CSPAN January 8, 2017 12:00am-12:58am EST
thought she was lunatic of her trying to take down the family and so on and so forth. they agreed about this one issue in language. he wrote a thank you note as he always did to his guest and he said, god damn it, you're good. he really enjoyed it and unfortunately she did not want to come back on the show but it was a really terrific show. they had just debated cambridge student and she had won the debate about women's liberation by the vote of the cambridge students. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. bill of rights day festival held annually in philadelphia in december. first up is a discussion on preserving america's founding documents.
>> 225th anniversary of the bill of rights. [cheers and applause] >> thethe national constitution center is the only institution in america chartered by congress on a nonpartisan basis. we are so thrilled to celebrate with you the bill of rights day and the 225th anniversary of the bill of rights so some history to review. ..
people in congress today the original second amendment is can raise its salaried that was ratified by the 27 demand meant so our first amendment was third and set out to the states with the profits that was beautiful. the conventions of the number of the states having at the time of their adopting the constitution expressly desire in order to
prevent misconstruction or abuse of that power that further declaratory clauses should be added that will best ensure the end of this institution that the following articles be revoked. those were proposed ban on december 15225 years ago today virginia becomes number 10 of 14 states to give us a bill of rights the two-thirds majority for ratification that is why we are celebrating bill of rights day december 15 with the 225th anniversary today. we have a blockbuster lineup of four spectacular authors.
we will begin with the discussion of the founding documents and former museum director the talk about the second amendment and the death penalty and we will end this wonderful festival icahn interview my great constitutional bloc teacher about the new book of the constitution is so great ironclad you are joining us. [applause] >> if you have not yet checked it out download the interactive constitution online or download in the apse door as you watch the beautiful panel, fall along
along, click on the amendment in question there you will find this to lead the liberal and conservative scholars nominated by the federalist society describing what they agree about antiques interactive constitution center.org. please help me to join our first panel. have a great day. [applause] >>. >> i and the interim president and ceo of the
historical site the of pennsylvania to emigrate interest of their security and i will ask them to tell you about their backgrounds. >> f former museum director write-down the street called the philadelphia history museum. i became very curious why museums have so much stuff the public never gets to cease so i wrote a book about that each chapter was on a different topic. when i got to the end of the book i had one or topic. something stolen from the
jewish family from world war ii. to access to the museum director so somebody box but nisi one of the objects. but nobody would let me see the object that i knew was there so i said that is what i want to write about. i was angry. so i decided to put that into a broader context all different kinds that have been stolen at a eventually made its way back home.
so i was writing the book like igo no offer agatha christie. but the more i wrote the more the book would write itself natalie a series of two crime stories but also about the ethics and law and history. that is have this book came about. >> is the very well-written book and we will come back to that in a few minutes. >> my wife and i came here yesterday from boston there is always a good ride between boston and philadelphia for where it
all began. american treasures is the story with its roots in world war two with the original constitution and gettysburg address said other documents moved to fort knox in the aftermath and i began that story with that piece a small magazine article i have done a lot of reading and teaching in never heard the story. so that movement to fort knox began the largest relocation of precious american and documents for safe keeping for american history when they move 5,000 boxes of other precious documents to be out of the way have uh german bombers
pdf so that is one thread or narrative as he was doing it why are the document so important what gave fdr the impetus for preserving? and why is there such a strong stewardship? to look back at the creation throughout american industry when the declaration of the constitution on the back of the of wagon so it works as the greatest narrative all
the way from 1952 from the library of congress. >> i found your organization interesting to how you got the idea how to do the book and that leads me to have some questions writing about the constitutional convention with the founding documents but the next chapter in 1938 or 42 you go right to the aftermath of pearl harbor. and it goes back and forth from one but to think about the importance of these
documents with the protection of the charter documents in the same as what happens when they are not protected? said they are well placed together thinking about the security and the importance of documents. you say you started with the interest of world war ii but to talk about why you think these documents and from one cavelike before you let's
talk about the north carolina bill of rights first. this is bill of rights day and written about the recovery of north carolina's lost copy and tell us the story of how they got it back. >> list is like an national constitution center story because part of that have been here. and at the end of the of civil war the union troops that is the capital city everybody knows the war is about to end but the people
of north carolina are terrified to destroy less south. some of the setting up the capitol building to be ransacked and many important documents had disappeared including the bill of rights. it was folded up four times from when it arrived from new york. from when the bill of rights was put together.
and the clerk wrote on the back north carolina bill of rights this happened in every state in in the union. so north carolina of bill of rights leaves with the union troops and ends up with typical new in ohio. and then to hang it on the wall of his office. it hangs there and over time it fades because it is on the wall and when he dies it passes to his wife who hangs it. and eventually it is turned
over to the family's daughters. what is interesting about this is all this time they know the bill of rights. they knew it was hanging on the wall. but because some smart guy over time said we could sell north carolina bill of rights back to north killed all '01 negative north carolina. it is a legal to steal documents but they didn't realize anybody was paying attention they didn't know how much they love that. they really state that refuses to sign the constitution without the bill of rights m. love did
so much debris fused to buyback as a commodity. so they go to a antique dealer sold what they do is find antique dealer defines another and pretty soon somebody has purchased a copy and out to make as much money as they came and. actually he appeared here in and philadelphia many times at the antique show. >> this is around 2,000. >> when did they first. >> but several times and in
the 20th century. >> and north carolina refused to buy it because it was theirs. >> did they ever threatened legal action? >> that is a good question. they could not because the seller was always hidden behind a diller -- a dealer or an agent or representative. >> so when tens up in philadelphia with a dealer tries to sell it to the national constitution seller . ahead of the constitution center to save you love to have the bill of rights but
then dealer says we have a better deal you can have it for free because we found to wealthy donors to with like a tax deduction they will buy a attend give it to you for free. this is not unusual and then they donated to a the institutions so what happens with the general counsel for is the word gets back to the governor of carolina that within a day the fbi is on the case they come to philadelphia say you have to help us get back to north carolina some of the fbi or
arranges a sting. so what happens is the agent brings it to use the office. every betty looks over this document that is fated but they are in an odd because it is the bill of rights then the fbi comes crashing through to confiscate the document taking a back to north carolina. seven years in court to get the document actually and legally back to carolina.
>> give us the story about protecting in wartime. >> those most dramatic for periods when the original declaration and constitution when they are moved our of washington d.c. so the state department clerk very quick thinking takes those two documents to persimmon the back of the of wagon and moves them a couple of miles from d.c. then realizes it could be too close. then the next morning goes to leesburg virginia then stores them in the farmhouse
so now they are in a farmhouse with hundreds of other documents the to do this in defiance of the secretary of war at the time into say because the british are coming and they will burn washington. >> kansas state department they didn't come to the archives so they had that ambulatory existence. >> so to say why are we moving these documents? to say we're not going to
washington d.c.. and that saves them during the war of 1812. so great fears of an attack after pearl harbor. so the fall of 1940 to start to play and these documents and many other precious documents they see that millions of british documents were incinerated with the primary source documents some there is a great fear with the strong stewardship so they start
playback and nine need you to go out and assess everything that we have that is irreplaceable that is essential to the operation of american democracy. they come up with six categories with the articles of confederation and also knows from the constitutional convention and all the way down. so in spraying of 1941 from pearl harbor the library of congress spend 700
volunteers and staffers with 10,000 hours gathering and cataloging packing 5,000 boxes of documents that they hold. but then he gets back to him to say you can use the small section but there is tons of gold bullion london that repository so i can give you the size of a freezer so they have to make the decision which documents are going to fort knox so the ones that go are the declaration and copies of the gettysburg address of copier the articles of confederation and a copy of the gutenberg bible and one
british document the magnetic card f - - mag jakarta that they times to hold on to a for safekeeping and then makes the determination that is just as precious entities to be saved also that it would be ironic and funny to thomas jefferson for them to be moved in the same train and place into for knox. the others go to the university repositories. washington and, lexington, and ohio. the documents need to be close enough for the staffers to examine them while in hiding where
humidity is not and issue common atmospheric conditions where mysore rodents or termites so there were 60 separate repositories eventually they moved them out of the vmi because it is more he amended that they thought so when they all are moved in complete secrecy until the fall of 44 there is very little attack and the documents come out of hiding >> so let's jump ahead 10 years later from the
you point out that a million people might go and look at that and as a think about it, it seems to me, at least it's worth discussing and thinking about. that is this. it strikes me that there was concern about people who were caring for these documents, their protectors, wherever they were to protect them and make sure they were okay. in the case of north carolina, they didn't have it and they were offered it for money which they didn't come forth with the
money to buy it back. then we jump to after world war ii when we start thinking about a shrine and we've created one. i don't know of any other country in the world where their founding documents are venerated the way hours are, by the public i think it's debatable that this public federation of the documents didn't come about until world war ii. i think i can argue, although you might disagree with me and i might lose the argument, but if they had really wanted the bill of rights and the first half of the 20th century, they they would have fought for it. so i think it was after world war ii, and i think even the
cold war had something to do with it. : has anyone been to the national archives recently and seen the way the documents are prevented presented? >> yes i have. >> it's very theatrical. >> yes, that's my point. so you walk in and it's dark and quiet. >> if the temple, it's a shrine. >> yes. i think that the spirit of the country, because we are such a diverse people, we need those iconic documents preserved as a
shrine, kind of to unitas with people, and i think that is part of our country. >> so we have developed that eat those as the country, and as an admiral device to bring us together. unlike other countries. i don't know monday did anything to protect it in world war ii. >> yes, they did. >> i think, in the old british library, it was on display. there's no shrine, it's just there. so there's not that same. >> i think that's right. i agree with what spence said. keep in mind, ours is the first
constitution of the republic that can trace its founding back to a single document. that is unique. i think we've kind of realize that from the beginning, and you're right, it is a shrine a shrine. think about what these documents are. there certainly artifacts, they are protected. there are digital computer that can monitor inch by inch so there are certainly artifacts. there are very strong symbols of the founding of the country and what does unitas which is in large part of our history and three, they are working documents. if you think about it, the declaration of independence, we can trace the underpinning back to a single paragraph, we hold
these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights including the pursuit of happiness. that is part of every discussion we don't always get it 100% perfect, but it's in the discussion. in the constitution, the constitution is part of our lives on a daily basis. every time you hear news caster say does congress have enough votes to override a presidential veto, who's been a control the senate in the next election, as part of our life on a daily basis. think about what these documents are. artifacts, symbols and a blueprint to the way we run our government and our society. i think you bring them all together, that's why people feel that need, the stewardship. >> thank you. >> i agree with everything you're saying, but i don't know
if any of that would change if the documents were lost. >> if they were destroyed, none of what you say would change. i guess, my point, it's not it's not something i'm trying to push , but i guess it's worth thinking about the importance of them as objects, as opposed to, the center is here for up similar purpose, but it's here without those documents. we can study the constitution through the things that were doing today, and the have been here all the time, every day without having the documents. i love the documents. i studied the papers of thomas jefferson for a period of time.
i love these documents and what they mean and how north carolina used documentary research and the document itself. editing of documents can produce a lot of information. >> i think you can venerate the documents without the document. >> there is something about being in the room, when there's something that thomas jefferson touched that is irreplaceable. >> 1 million people a year go through, it says something about the documents. it also says something about our culture, and my thoughts, i'm not to write a book about this, but i think they got into this a little bit on how our reaction to world war ii led us to come
around these documents. i think it is something we've embraced and come up with. i could use derisive terms but i don't feel derisive about it. i think it's a good thing, it's just interesting to me to think about the changing attitudes toward the document, as i read your books and read history and when these things became really important as objects. they were really important to people were taking care of them, but i think in virginia and ohio or wherever, they might've known
about it and thought this was a good thing, but i don't think there was the thought that this becomes howard hall because it had these documents. >> i might disagree with that. think about this. these documents that came out of hiding from fort knox in september of 44, there's 44, there's one there's one exception, the declaration of independence comes out of hiding on april 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of jefferson's birth when the jefferson memorial, fdr thinks at this point in 43 that it's been a real slog of a war. we've we been at war for 16 months, whatever. to boost the morale of the american people, having the original people, the copy of the declaration of independence on display under 24 hour marine guard would be something that
would be helpful to the people. he brings it out from hiding for a week and thousands of americans visit to come and see it. part of it might've been the war years but that kind of gave us that feeling or connection to the document. this week also, when you see these documents you touch other documents that there is a feeling, venerating feeling feeling in the example i always use is when you go to that shrine in a million people go through there to see documents, think about that, that's pretty amazing. when you go there, even the even the kids, my wife is principle of k-8 parochial school and when
you are the husband of the principal, you shop chaperone lots of things, and we take the kids to d.c. we've gone there for five years now. even when you have 100 kids in that low lit quiet shrine, the kids are quieter. they get it. they get that there is something special about being in there. they might not always know why, and i have to refrain from being the of noxious note all like come and see the declaration, come and see. although there was a school group nearby last year and i heard one guy say, of me, hey that guy knows what he's talking about so listen to him, but the kids kind of get where they are. they realize there's they realize there's something very special about that shrine at about the fact that these are on display. i think that says something. >> there's so much we could talk
about with all this. i keep thinking about this and i have all these ideas and that's fun. i'm stimulated by your work. it's not an accident of history, but the gettysburg address is key to incorporating the decoration of declaration of independence into the constitution. it's just an act of congress. it's a declaration. it's not, it's a legal document in the sense that it declares independence, but the getty gettysburg address embraces it and makes it what it is today. roosevelt pushed for monument for jefferson. there were no monuments, there
is washington monument and the lincoln memorial. jefferson thought we should have that, but it also has to do with jeffersons writings his words in the declaration and the other things, and even truman wrote about all of that, but truman, in his role in getting the editing project started when the jefferson papers appeared, but also the strength of the national archives and the decision to move those documents down. german had something to do with that. were talking about things that it's obvious there's interest in because of of our questions i think we've answered, but there are a couple that i would like to ask.
much to think the survival and preservation of the founding documents contributes to a sense of american patriotism and pride we all think a great deal, and it may be the reason for these things to be where they are and protected as they are. i think we've answered this one also ,-comma what is the power, we've indirectly answered it, but i'll give you a chance to answer it if you'd like to ,-comma what is the power of seeing the actual bill of rights for the artifacts in person? is that experience different than seeing it digitally? >> i'm writing a book about vacant forgery now and i've been thinking about that a lot. i just had an article in the new york times about a guy who absolutely believes that
meticulous copies are just as important as the real stuff, and i don't get it. i think there is something about being in the space with an authentic object that transports you back in time. >> the question is what's the power of it. i think you can take a digital copy and through digitization and other kinds of techniques, something scribbled over. jefferson could scribble over things so heavily that you can't read what's down below. you can digitize that, assigned different colors to the
different ink. if he did it a year later or sometime later, the conversation, the ink changes and you can assign different color to the two inks and eliminate one of the colors, and what you do is eliminate the scribble. that has power, but that's for getting out what they really are. the emotional power, he had one in the library congress has the other. to hold it, you're looking at something he held in his hands and that's powerful. that connects you to jefferson in a way you can't otherwise. to stand in front of the bill of rights, you are seeing something that others looked at.
there's a brief question i will answer. someone writes what is the difference between the library of congress and the national archive. we been referring to this. the library of congress was established early in our republic, and it is a library that in modern times, throughout the 20th century, the copyright law specified that everything published, everything that's copyright, library of congress got two copies. so it's a library and the true sense of being a library, in everything published or every other things from other works, but also manuscripts. they have all the manuscripts of the founding fathers, most all of them. there's a trend away from that
but they have manuscripts of american history, and it's just an amazing institution. the national archives was established to take government records, equally important to our government and our culture and those that need to be preserved forever. >> i think the other thing i would add is that the library of congress, one of the reasons that it wasn't moved, there was almost a 20 year gap is that there was a tremendous turf battle between the library of congress and the national archives. they were very concerned about
losing its two most prestigious documents, the declaration and the constitution. library of congress staffers felt they should never again reach that level of prestige. of course it on the that happen. the library of congress is still held with this great esteem. that's one of the reasons it took so long and finally truman said it's time to get these documents on display. on bill of rights day, one of truman's last public events, he's the lame-duck at that point and truman presides over the enshrinement of the documents. this is something i would like to ask you, and you may want to think about it a little bit before you answer.
i'm not advising you too, but you may want to, in which case, if you do, i you do, i will ask another question while you think about it. this says, if you could save one historical american document that has been lost along the way, which one would it be, and what happens to it? do you have one in mind? >> i thought about that question for long time so i think i would change the declaration. the constitution is the codification of the principles in the document. as i have said many times, i think that second paragraph is the underpinning. so if i had, if there was one you have to save, i think that's the one that you would save. the constitution is beautiful. >> of course is one that has been lost, that we don't have
now, one document, one historical document that is lost that we don't have the original of, that's the difficulty i think. that's the question. >> i agree with you, having the original declaration to me, i would agree with you on that. if we know of a document that we know existed at one time in the original is no longer available to us, there are lots of jefferson letters that we can't find that i would like to have. >> i have a thought. >> please. >> one thought is pennsylvania's copy of the bill of rights. >> there we go. good for you. great segue.
so every state gets a copy of the bill of rights and they do two, and stuck in a or some other safe place in the state capital. around the time of the 20th century, late 19th century it disappears. somebody says it was carried by someone who worked in the archives in a carpet bag. he carpet bag did to new york where he saw it and it ends up who knows where. the story about north carolina's bill of rights started me thinking about what happened pennsylvania, and actually, it started the national constitution center thinking about that too. they realized that it might've
been the one that is owned by the new york public library. there is a copy of the constitution, a bill of rights that's done by the new york public library. >> where is it right this minute >> it's across the hall. >> you should go look at it. >> no it's not new york's coffee because new york's coffee was destroyed in a fire, so who's copy is it? new york public library, new york transportation of philadelphia's copy. so what the national constitution did which was very clever was, instead instead of saying new york, giveback our copy of the bill of rights, they negotiated a very gentle, where
the agreement is that the document stays for three years at the library and then stays for three years in pennsylvania and nobody talks about who owns it. >> except you did. >> except i can because, because i'm an author. i can say anything i want, but also i was disappointed as the chair of the pennsylvania historical commission. that document is hours. [applause] >> when you see the bill of rights, pennsylvania's copy of the bill of rights are owned by new york public library, in the other room you will see, 11 of the questions was, in this age what steps are being made to preserve our document.
you will see an elaborate, state-of-the-art, the most modern storage facility for such a document, especially if it's going to be put on display. that will tell you what is being done, and also it reinforces what nancy has written about and what steve has written about which is how we hold them in such a steam that we go to the links you can see in the other room or in washington at the national archives when you go down there. i regret to say that our time is up. i think we could go on for at least another half hour if not more. there is a book signing and steve and nancy would be happy to sign copies of their book in the lobby outside the door. there will be a 15 minute break before the next session begins. we thank you very much for coming today.