During my recent visit to Washington, D.C. my son and I had the chance to visit our nation’s records keeper- the National Archives. If you have never been there it is a place I highly recommend.
During our visit we had the opportunity to see two special exhibits. The first was a copy of the 1297 Magna Carta, one of only four originals believed still in existence. The document, which is on loan from Mr. David M. Rubenstein, was on display in the West Rotunda gallery. Mr. Rubenstein also underwrote the conservation treatment of the document and the fabrication of its special air tight case machined out of two solid blocks of aluminum. The case is filled with the inert gas argon as oxygen would be a detriment to the condition of the document. I was thrilled to be able to see it on display as I had watched the documentaries regarding the preparation of the exhibit several months ago.
The other special exhibit was in the East Rotunda and was the “Resolution of Transmittal to the Continental Congress” often referred to as the fifth page of the Constitution. This document, on display for the first time, was only on view from September 14-19. It provided the procedure for making the Constitution the law of the land. Each State would call a convention, whose delegates would be elected by the voters. After nine of these groups ratified, the new Government could begin operation.
Of course, not to be overlooked was the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom- the permanent home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. These three documents, known collectively as the Charters of Freedom, have secured the rights of the American people for more than two and a quarter centuries.
As an American, I was humbled to be in the presence of such a collection of documents that provide for the basic rights and liberties of all. The Magna Carta established important individual rights that have a direct legacy in the American Bill of Rights. Throughout our history these rights have been expanded through amendments to the Constitution and the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. However the constant theme has been the protection of individual freedom through the due process of law.