About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Making a New American Constitution and the Question of Constitutional Reform

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual panel discussion led by George William Van Cleve, author of Making a New American Constitution and the Question of Constitutional Reform.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, April 6, at noon, Jonathan Petropoulos will tell us about his new book, Göring’s Man in Paris, the story of Bruno Lohse, who helped supervise the Nazis’ systematic theft of thousands of artworks during World War II.

And on Tuesday, April 13, at 6 p.m., Lisa Napoli, author of Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, will lead a discussion of the early years of National Public Radio with three of the trailblazing women of the title: Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, and Nina Totenberg.

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I am speaking to you from the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, where the Rotunda of our Museum has displayed the United States Constitution for nearly 70 years. The Constitution, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, is the centerpiece of our exhibit space, where—in a normal year—about a million visitors come to see the founding documents of our nation. We haven’t had visitors in a long while, but the three charters remain safely stored, preserved for many more generations.

Another founding document is seldom displayed: the Articles of Confederation. Our current Constitution came about after leading citizens of the states concluded that the Articles needed to be replaced with a stronger federal government. In Making a New American Constitution, author George William Van Cleve proposes that a new constitutional convention may be in order. Today, our three panelists will probe the described flaws in the Constitution and debate how to create a new social contract.

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George William Van Cleve received his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He was an attorney for 25 years with private law firms and in the federal government, and represented private and government clients in state and federal courts from Massachusetts to California. He has taught at four law schools and the University of Virginia, was Research Professor in Law and History at Seattle University School of Law, and is now Dean's Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University Law Center. In addition to Making a New American Constitution, he is the author of A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic and We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution. He has published numerous law and history journal articles on British and American constitutional, legal, and political history.

Joining us as panelists today are Julian Maxwell Hayter, associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, and David S. Tanenhaus, professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and James E. Rogers Professor of History and Law at the William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV.

 Now let’s hear from the panel. Thank you for joining us today.