About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Heart of the Constitution: How the Bill of Rights Became the Bill of Rights"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m glad you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube.

Before we hear from our guest speaker, Gerard Magliocca, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up next month.

On Thursday, February 1, at 7 p.m., we will partner with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress for a program called “Meet the Better Half: Congressional Partners, Spouses, and Families.”

And on Tuesday, February 6, at noon, Catherine Kerrison will be here to talk about her new book, Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America, which looks into the lives of Martha and Maria Jefferson and Harriet Hemings.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. You can also sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Upstairs, our Rotunda holds the original parchments of the three great founding documents of our nation—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

When the Declaration and Constitution were transferred from the Library of Congress to the National Archives in 1952, there was great fanfare and ceremony. But we often overlook the fact that the Bill of Rights was already here. It came to the Archives from the Department of State in 1938 and was put on public view in the Rotunda.

During that 1952 ceremony, though, President Harry Truman drew attention to already in the National Archives’ possession, saying: “I am glad that the Bill of Rights is at last to be exhibited side by side with the Constitution. These two original documents have been separated far too long. In my opinion the Bill of Rights is the most important part of the Constitution of the United States—the only document in the world that protects the citizen against his Government.”

The Constitution was ratified with a promise to add guarantees of personal liberties, and the First Federal Congress took up that task. Once the states ratified the proposed amendments, the Bill of Rights became an integral part of the new United States Constitution.

Now let us turn to Professor Magliocca to learn more about the Bill of Rights—the “heart” of the Constitution. In a recent Washington Post review, K. Sabeel Rahman wrote, “In his timely new book, The Heart of the Constitution, Gerard N. Magliocca highlights how a key component of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, has been a central touchstone for Americans throughout history.”

Gerard Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He is the author of four books and over twenty articles on constitutional law and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his law degree from Yale. He joined the Indiana Law faculty after a year as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and two years as an attorney at Covington and Burling. In 2008 Professor Magliocca held the Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands. He was elected to the American Law Institute in 2013, and in 2014 received the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Gerard Magliocca.