Press Release nr97-70
Press Release · Saturday, June 19, 1999

Washington, DC

Press Release
June 19, 1999

National Historical Publications and Records Commission Confirms Priority for Founding Fathers' Papers

Gerald George
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20408
Telephone: (202) 501-5600

Washington, DC . . . Archivist of the United States John Carlin today announced that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission has restored top level priority in its strategic plan for projects to publish the papers of America's Founding Fathers.

The action came as the Commission modified and approved a strategic plan recommended by its Executive Committee with Mr. Carlin's endorsement. The plan gives top priority to three objectives:

  • completing publication of the Founding Fathers papers;
  • helping archivists solve electronic records problems and helping prepare for electronic publication of documents; and
  • collaborating with state records boards to widen the range of protected records available in archives to scholars, students, and the public.

The action overturns a previous plan that would have reduced priority for editing and publishing the Founding Fathers papers in favor only of projects to save and provide access to historical records not already preserved in archival repositories.

"For anybody who cares about our nation's history, this is good news," Mr. Carlin declared. "These priorities meet needs of all our constituents, assure Americans that records covering many parts of our history will be saved, enable us to deal with new kinds of records as we enter the 21st century, and make the words and thoughts of the founding fathers available to everyone on library bookshelves.

"Through these priorities," he continued, "we can get states' assistance to help protect a wide range of records, we can help save the history in electronic records that we are now in danger of losing, and we can help provide the public with access to those particular records that best help us understand the creation of our country and its democratic institutions."

As head of the National Archives and Records Administration, Mr. Carlin chairs the NHPRC, which is the program within NARA that makes grants throughout the nation for preserving and providing access to valuable historical records.

The NHPRC helps support eight projects that collectively document the beginnings of the United States and the formation of its basic political institutions -- projects to publish the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and James Madison, and projects to publish documentary histories of the ratification of the Constitution, the First Federal Congress, and the early Supreme Court. Documentary editors are working on these projects at Princeton, Yale, the universities of Virginia and Wisconsin,, George Washington University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Supreme Court Historical Society.

The Commission also collaborates with state historical records advisory boards nationwide on jointly funded programs to strengthen archival institutions and save a wide range of records that illustrate American history in all its diversity. And the Commission is a recognized leader in funding efforts by archivists to master the problems of preserving and providing access to the computer-generated records in which history is increasingly recorded.

"We've had a good, long debate over priorities," Mr. Carlin declared, "but the Commission is now reunited around goals that deserve the support of all Americans."

The final wording of the strategic goals in the plan adopted by the Commission is as follows:

  • The NHPRC will provide the American public with widespread access to the papers of the founders of our democratic republic and its institutions by ensuring the timely completion of eight projects now in progress to publish the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and papers that document the ratification of the Constitution, the First Federal Congress, and the early Supreme Court.
  • The NHPRC will promote broad public participation in historical documentation by collaborating with State Historical Records Advisory Boards to plan and carry out jointly funded programs to strengthen the nation's archival infrastructure and expand the range of records that are protected and accessible.
  • The NHPRC will enable the nation's archivists, records managers, and documentary editors to overcome the obstacles and take advantage of the opportunities posed by electronic technologies by continuing to provide leadership in funding research-and-development on appraising, preserving, disseminating, and providing access to important documentary sources in electronic form.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail at Visit the National Archives Home Page on the World Wide Web at

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