Charters

“I believe you’re a Constitutionalist, Mr. McKenzie.”

“Ahaha, Mr. E. I knew you’d turn up someday. Everyone else has. I just didn’t expect to see you in the Try-Mai-Tai.”

“William recommended this venue but we can adjourn to, perhaps, “The Third Eye” if you want.”

Rhys glanced at the man’s mischievous smile. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you? I thought Jennifer would’ve broken you of the habit.”

“She tried . A good effort … but I would not let Jennifer, two zaibatsu and a multinational spoil my fun.”

“Jennifer’s come a long way since you tortured her with that STEM curriculum.”

“And ‘What doesn’t kill us … ‘ right? Anyway, we’re way off on a tangent and I really want to see what you know and yeah, feel, about the three founding documents.”

Rhys mused a little. “I remember when it was sequestered for the renovation of the Rotunda, 2001-03. I felt I’d lost something. But I was full of high school civics class patriotism and myths, even if I didn’t know it at the time.”

“And you started at university and suddenly it was the shock of ‘lies your teachers taught you.’ ” But all that was beside the point. William told me so much about that Childers fella. Damn, I wish I’d met him.”

A moment of silence. “Listen to this: ‘Anyhow, Portland knew the call would come. It always does.'”

“Whether it was a farm-boy with a Kentucky long rifle or a little drummer boy who reveres his region, traditions, and culture.”

One sentence to encompass The Revolution and the civil war. Eloquent!

“That is the real history, Rhys. Ordinary people in exceptional circumstances.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, friend. But you have something up your sleeve. Get on with it.”

“All right. Oh, but there could be three, or four things. Never mind. I know you were specializing in the Progressive era.”

Rhys cut in with his own sly smile: “A nasty job but someone’s gotta do it.”

“Agreed. It almost described the 20th Century. And the key is … whatever happened to the Republic?  And the other thing you missed, is this:

James Madison, when Secretary of State, had custody of the Constitution, the original document, lost sight of it in his elder years.

A publisher had it in 1846. (?)

Historian J. Franklin Jameson found the parchment in a tin box, folded, on a closet floor at the State, War and Navy Building in 1883.

The State Department sealed the Constitution and Declaration between two glass plates in 1894. They kept the trophy in a safe. Then those two sacred documents were assigned to the Library of Congress by executive order.

President Coolidge dedicated the bronze-and-marble shrine for public display of the Constitution at the library’s headquarters in 1924 . The parchments were laid over moisture absorbing cellulose paper, vacuum-sealed between double panes of insulated plate glass, and protected from light by a gelatin film.

December 1941 – they were moved from the Library of Congress and stored at the U.S. Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky, until September 1944.

In 1951, following a study by the National Bureau of Standards to protect from atmosphere, insects, mold and light, the parchments were re-encased with special light filters, inert helium gas and proper humidity. They were transferred to the National Archives in 1952.[

Since 1952, they  have been displayed in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building. Visual inspections have been enhanced by electronic imaging. Changes in the cases led to removal from their cases in July 2001, preservation treatment by conservators, and installment in new encasements for public display in September 2003.

The new encasements, which look like large, deep picture frames, were constructed by NIST of titanium and aluminum. The frames are gold plated to evoke the style of historic frames. Inside each encasement, the parchment document rests on a metal platform with a cushion of handmade paper. The paper acts to absorb or release moisture in the event of temperature or humidity changes inside the encasement. Polyester tabs secure the parchment documents to the platform.

The amount of conservatorship and science that went into this endeavour is absolutely staggering.


Now, this next, I do not vouch for. It appears to be debunking the debunkers.

The old urban legend that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp (marijuana) paper)?  Not 100% completely, but true enough.

The truth derives from the fact that until 1883, 75% to 90% of all paper in the world was made from cannabis hemp fiber. The hemp plant is a very versatile plant, which could (and still does) make many different things. It is used in shampoos, fabrics, and medical drugs (medicinal marijuana and Marinol). It is also used to make rope and makes an alternative fuel. But paper is the material it was most widely used for.

The paper made out of hemp is of much greater quality than that made out of cotton, and it lasts longer. A few hundred years ago, Bibles, maps, paper money, stocks and bonds, and newspapers were all written on hemp paper. In those days, they couldn’t make paper from trees like they do today.

The Gutenberg Bible (15th century).

The King James Bible (17th century).

Thomas Paine’s pamphlets: The Rights of Man, Common Sense, and  The Age of Reason.

The works of Mark Twain, Alexander Dumas, and Victor Hugo.

And Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland.

All these were written on hemp paper, as was just about everything else at the time.

Now, the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (shown at top) was, indeed, written on Dutch hemp paper (June 28, 1776). The second draft was, too. This second draft was written on July 2, 1776. This was the draft agreed to and announced and released on the immortal date of July 4, 1776. The printed broadside is to the right.

Then on July 19, 1776, Congress ordered the Declaration of Independence be copied and engrossed on parchment (a prepared animal skin). This was the famous document signed by the delegates on August 2, 1776. So, this “original” Declaration of Independence was engrossed on parchment (animal skin treated with lime).

This treated animal skin parchment stretches out and has a long-lasting quality. This is why the Declaration of Independence is in such good condition when we view it today. So, just to clarify completely: the original two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper.

Yes, this is the hemp plant whose buds yield the infamous marijuana.

But “the” Declaration of Independence we all know and love was actually not.


“What makes the Constitution worthy of our commitment? First and foremost, the answer is our freedom. It is, quite simply, the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed. It’s also the world’s shortest and oldest national constitution, neither so rigid as to be stifling, nor so malleable as to be devoid of meaning.

Our Constitution has been an inspiration that changed the trajectory of world history for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government. What was revolutionary when it was written, and what continues to inspire the world today, is that the Constitution put governance in the hands of the people.”

Sandra Day O’Connor, former associate justice of the Supreme Court

TBD

NOT Mad Max

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