This election year 2012 may be one of the most important elections in American history.
That could be said every presidential election year and it is true because the elections uphold many of our principles carved into one of our most precious historical documents, the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution, one of only eight still in existence, will be displayed alongside a 1789 draft of the U. S. Bill of Rights and original copies of the two Minnesota state constitutions at the Minnesota History Center, Tuesday, April 3 through Wednesday, July 4.
The Minnesota History Center is one of our state’s most treasured symbol of Minnesota history.
It is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd W., St. Paul.
To see more about Minnesota history, go to the Minnesota Historical Society website at http://www.mnhs.org/.
I will use this space to print news release information prepared by Jessica Kohen and Julianna Olsen:
A new exhibit, “We the People: The First Official Printing of the U.S. Constitution Presented by Thomson Reuters,” will go on display at the Minnesota History Center, April 3–July 4.
This exhibit will feature a rare, early published version of the U.S. Constitution and an even more rare draft of the Bill of Rights, along with the original editions of the two state of Minnesota Constitutions.
Stephen Elliott, Minnesota Historical Society director and CEO, says that “bringing the Constitution and Bill of Rights – which set the foundation of our government – to Minnesota is an honor.
These documents, along with the Minnesota Constitutions, provide learners of all ages with a rare first-hand look at how our government came to be.”
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a member of the society’s executive council, helped with the initial arrangements for the display of the U.S. Constitution and draft Bill of Rights at the Minnesota History Center.
He says “seeing what is arguably the most celebrated document in our American history in a year when Minnesotans will go to the polls, is in itself a historic opportunity.”
Mike Suchsland, president of the Legal business of Thomson Reuters, agrees.
“This is great for Minnesota, and Thomson Reuters is delighted to support this remarkable showing of these early printings of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights,” he said.
“Care for the law is at the heart of our business, and Thomson Reuters and our Westlaw team take great pride in our role as stewards of the U.S. legal system and our support of the rule of law – work that traces its ancestry to these very documents.”
September 1787 printing of the U.S. Constitution
From May to September the Constitutional Convention met in closed sessions in Philadelphia, Pa. to develop a new constitution for the fledgling republic.
On Sept. 17, 1787, the convention members signed the final draft of the Constitution and sent it to the printing house of Dunlap & Claypoole.
Working through the night, the printers created the first official printing of the six-page document, which included a letter from George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention, urging the states to ratify the new Constitution.
Although the vote was close in some states, the Constitution was eventually ratified and the new federal government came into existence in 1789.
The Constitution established the U.S. government as it exists today.
A Dunlap & Claypoole printed Constitution dated Sept. 17, 1787 will be on display at the Minnesota History Center.
Draft Bill of Rights, House “Slip Bill”
One of the first tasks of the new Federal Congress was to propose a Bill of Rights or specific guarantees of liberties for American citizens.
James Madison, then a U.S. Representative from Virginia, introduced the first set of amendments in the House.
After heavy debate members of the House approved a final version, known as a “slip bill” or a working document, with 17 amendments on Aug. 24, 1789.
Further debate in Congress reduced the amendments to 12.
Ten of those amendments – the Bill of Rights – were ratified by the states and adopted, effective Dec. 15, 1791.
Printed in limited numbers by Thomas Greenleaf in an unbound pamphlet and for the exclusive use of Congress, the House “slip bill” dated Aug. 24, 1789, is extremely rare.
It is this draft Bill of Rights that will be on display at the Minnesota History Center.
Minnesota’s two state constitutions
In order to become a state, Minnesota needed to draft a constitution.
In 1857, territorial residents elected delegates to a constitutional convention.
But intense rivalry between Democratic and Republican factions forced the convention to create a conference committee (a super committee by today’s standards) to propose language that would be acceptable to both parties.
While the delegates approved the committee’s proposed language, they refused to sign a single document that contained the signatures of the other faction’s members.
On Aug. 29, 1857, 53 Republican members signed one document and 51 Democratic members signed another document.
Although the two documents were intended to be identical, a detailed comparison shows more than 300 punctuation, grammatical and wording differences.
No substantive differences in meaning or interpretation are present.
About the loan of the U.S. Constitution and Draft Bill of Rights
The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are on loan from the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation.
Longtime collectors of American autographs, documents and manuscripts, Dorothy Goldman and her late husband S. Howard Goldman own what is believed to be one of only eight existing original printed copies of the United States Constitution, and the only copy known to be in private hands.
The exhibit “We the People: The First Official Printing of the U.S. Constitution Presented by Thomson Reuters” is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the Legacy Amendment through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.
The exhibit is included with regular History Center admission of $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 6 to 17; free for children age five and under and Minnesota Historical Society members.
It is free for all ages Tuesday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m.
Call for special group tour rates, 651-259-3003.
The exhibit is open during regular History Center hours, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (admission is free from 5 to 8 p.m.); Wednesday s through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
For History Center information call 651-259-3000 or visit www.mnhs.org/historycenter.
View large images of the U.S. Constitution at the “Charters of Freedom” website created by the National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html
Find more history on the U.S. Constitution and helpful links to more information at Wikipedia’s comprehensive website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution
Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.