National Archives Posts High Quality Images of our Charters of Freedom

October 26th, 2009

The National Archives posted fantastic replications of some of our most important founding documents. H/T PrawsBlog.

Professor Johnson previously criticized drafting errors in the original Constitution, and gave it a B-. Here, he remarks on some of the unique ways these documents were drafted and preserved.

Before our current era of sealing precious documents in humidity- and pressure-controlled encasements filled with inert argon gas, the Charters of Freedom received somewhat indelicate treatment. For instance, if you look at the 26th Amendment, you will notice that in 1971, an officious government worker kerplonked a “RECEIVED” date stamp on the front of the original. Thus, the document giving 18-year-olds the right to vote appears to have been treated with all the dignity of a Selective Service postcard.

Contrast that with the pomp accorded the next amendment, the 27th. This amendment, limiting congressional pay hikes, is what would have been the first amendment if it hadn’t taken 203 years to ratify.

When it finally came in from the cold, the National Archives laid out the 27th Amendment with sumptuous typography on paper bedecked with a glorious gold seal and a generous length of dark red ribbon. The document is truly resplendent. It could make your law-school diploma turn green with envy.

Take a look at some of my favorites, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, and all other charters of freedom.

These documents are very important to me. I keep a pocket Constitution in every suit jacket, and I have replicas of the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Second Amendment on my Wall of Liberty. I also have my grandfather’s medals from WWII, and a print of the Signing of the Declaration.