About the National Archives

Ceremony at the National Archives Building for the Unveiling of the New $10 Note

Remarks by Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
March 2, 2006, Washington, DC

Madame Treasurer, Assistant Director Lambert (the Fed), Director Felix (Printing and Engraving), Director Merritt (Secret Service), and honored guests.*

I am Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States.  Welcome to the National Archives and Records Administration, home of the United States Constitution, whose most famous phrase will grace the new $10 bill.

The words “We the People” from the Preamble to the Constitution are perhaps the most important in all our founding documents—the Charters of Freedom—the originals of which are all right here in this historic Rotunda.

“We the People” encapsulates the concept of a federal democracy and of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln would later state with eloquent simplicity.  

These three words attest that the document that follows them was not handed down by a monarch or a self-proclaimed despot, but emanated from the people who were to be governed by it.   

The 52-word Preamble provided the reasons and purposes behind the magnificent document to which they are attached:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to
 form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
 insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the
 common defence, promote the general Welfare,
 and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
 and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this
 Constitution for the United States of America.”

It is quite fitting and proper that “We the People” appears on the same $10 bill as Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury.  Hamilton was, of course, a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and served on the small “Committee of Style” that wrote the Preamble.  Though he disagreed with some provisions of the Constitution, he became a vigorous advocate for its ratification.

The debate over the Constitution and what it means, that began in 1787 in Philadelphia, continues today—in our Congress and in our courts, in our classrooms and living rooms, over dinner tables and in think tanks. Yet, today, the Constitution remains strong, strong enough to accommodate the complex needs and challenges of a society that could not have been envisioned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the others who drafted this magnificent document. 

We at the National Archives are pleased that the U.S. Treasury has chosen to introduce the new $10 bill here today.  And do return to spend some time with the Charters of Freedom and to tour our new permanent exhibit, the Public Vaults.


* Also speaking were Anna Cabral, Treasurer of the United States; Michael Lambert, Assistant Director of the Federal Reserve Bank’s Operations and Payment System; Larry Felix, Director of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving; and Michael Merritt, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Investigations, U.S. Secret Service.