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Press Release
October 26, 2004

The Charters Of Freedom-"A New World Is At Hand"

New Book Showcases Nation's Founding Documents

Washington, D.C. . . The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, collectively known as the Charters of Freedom, have guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Americans for over 200 years. The spectacular new book The Charters of Freedom-"A New World Is At Hand" showcases the National Archives' renovated Rotunda, the newly re-encased Charters of Freedom, and the exhibition that flanks their permanent display. The book reveals the dramatic events and philosophies which led to the creation of these historic documents in the 18th century and the profound impact of the Charters on the course of history in the United States and around the world.

This book presents some of the nation's greatest documentary treasures, all of which are part of the National Archives holdings, alongside paintings, engravings, and photographs of major figures and events in U.S. history. With quotes from the nation's founders and leaders, these elements combine to reveal the drama, passion, and poignancy of the struggle for freedom that has defined much of U.S. history. It accesses the lasting impact of the Charters on U.S. history, including the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the right of suffrage. Highlights include a special introduction by Archivist of the United States John Carlin, as well as striking architectural photographs of the Rotunda and the newly restored larger-than-life murals that grace the National Archives Rotunda's curved walls.

Archivist John W. Carlin praised this book as "a breathtaking celebration of our nation's history that explores and explains both the origins and legal protections of the truths we hold to be self evident. A true treasure!"

Featured documents include:

  • Proclamation by the King for Suppressing Rebellion, August 23, 1775, in which King George III labeled the rebellious colonists as traitors;
  • Oath of secrecy, November 9, 1775, adopted and signed by members of the Second Continental Congress (including John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and other towering figures of the Revolution), to protect the cause of liberty, and their lives;
  • Anti-slavery petition, October, 4, 1783, signed by some 500 Quakers, protesting the institution that existed "in opposition to the solemn declaration [of independence] often repeated in favor of universal liberty."
  • The original, engrossed Articles of Confederation, ratified March 1, 1781, and often described as this nation's first constitution;
  • George Washington's own working copy of an early draft of the Constitution, showing his handwritten annotations made during the Constitutional Convention in 1787;
  • A 1789 Committee report of the First Federal Congress showing the final wording of what would become the First Amendment to the Constitution;
  • A document from Marbury v. Madison, the landmark Supreme Court case of 1803 that established one of the cornerstones of the American constitutional system-judicial review;
  • The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, 1803, the largest single land acquisition in U.S. history;
  • President Abraham Lincoln's 1862 State of the Union message, delivered to Congress during the Civil War, in which he speaks of the United States as the "last best, hope of earth."
  • Proclamation of the Secretary of State announcing the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution ending slavery in the United States;
  • The original Deed of Gift of the Statue of Liberty, July 4, 1884, which has greeted millions of immigrants arriving in the United States, and remains one of the most potent and universal symbols of human liberty;
  • Susan B. Anthony's testimony, following her arrest for "illegal voting" in the election of 1872;
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • President George Bush's 1990 State of the Union address, remarking on the series of revolutions that swept through central Eastern Europe in 1989, and relating the story of the Czechoslovakian brewery worker who, during a workers' rally, took to the stage and began to recite the Declaration of Independence.

The book was written by Stacey Bredhoff, Senior Curator at the National Archives, and is published by The Foundation for the National Archives in association with D. Giles Limited of London. The Charters of Freedom-"A New World Is at Hand" reflects the public-private partnership between the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives. The book is available for $29.95 through the National Archives Museum Shop (can be ordered by phone at 202.208.0319), through Amazon.com, and is also available at book stores.

The exhibition on which the book is based is free and open to the public. It remains on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, Washington, DC.

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For more information about the The Charters of Freedom-"A New World Is at Hand" exhibition or book, to interview Stacey Bredhoff or request photos, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (202) 501-5526 or (301) 837-1700.

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