The Constitution acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interests, laws, and cultures. Under America’s first national government, the Articles of Confederation, the states acted together only for specific purposes. The Constitution united its citizens as members of a whole, vesting the power of the union in the people. Without it, the American Experiment might have ended as quickly as it had begun.
Preserving the Constitution
This footage shows the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence as they are loaded into an armored truck at the Library of Congress, taken to the National Archives Building in a procession down Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, and carried up the building's steps. President Harry S. Truman and Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson speak in a ceremony at the National Archives Rotunda on the historic importance of the documents.
The so-called "Fifth Page" of the US Constitution -- also known as the Transmittal Page -- has never been publicly displayed. On the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the US Constitution the Fifth Page was displayed at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Fifth Page has received the same care as the more famous documents in the Charters of Freedom and is encased in the same type of state-of-the-art oxygen-free encasement as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution pages one to four, and the Bill of Rights.
In this Inside the Vaults video short, Chief of Reference at the National Archives Trevor Plante literally takes viewers inside the Archives vaults to see some of his favorite rarely-displayed documents. They include:
• The original text of the "Virginia Plan," Edmund Randolph's proposal for a national government that included three co-equal branches: "supreme legislative, judiciary and executive";
• A printed copy of the Constitution with George Washington's handwritten annotations;
• The final printed copy of the Constitution, which was delivered to the Constitutional Convention September 13, 1787, approved by vote on September 15, and then signed on September 17; and
• The state of Pennsylvania's ratification copy of the Constitution — unlike the four-page version of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the entire text is on one enormous sheet of parchment so it could be more easily transported.
Inside the Vaults includes highlights from the National Archives in the Washington, DC, area and from the Presidential libraries and regional archives nationwide. These shorts present behind-the-scenes exclusives and offer surprising stories about the National Archives treasures.
Come see the U.S. Constitution on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.
Once a vision for the United States of America, crafted by our founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence is preserved as living proof of our history at the National Archives and Records Administration. Join a group of middle schoolers on a tour of Washington, D.C. as they learn about this document and others and what it means to be “We the People.” The “We the People” videos are produced in collaboration with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.