Learn about the Constitution on iTunes U!
It’s almost Constitution Day! This September 17th marks 225 years since the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. At the National Archives we’re commemorating the occasion throughout September with special programs, online media, and learning materials.
If you’re interested in brushing up on your knowledge of the Constitution, try our brand new United States Constitution course on iTunes U.
In it you’ll discover our multi-touch book for iPad – Exploring the United States Constitution – as well as blog posts, articles, videos, documents, and activities in the DocsTeach App for iPad. The course can be accessed for free with the iTunes App for iPad or from http://itunes.apple.com/us/course/united-states-constitution/id559398926
For information about special events and public programs at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, to access teaching and learning resources, and to connect with the National Archives through social media, visit our Constitution Day page.
On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed H.R. 16 into law, creating Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was our young nation’s first national park. In 1888 there was a nationwide movement to further preserve Yellowstone. The Center for Legislative Archives has numerous petitions, like the one shown above, from citizens across the U.S. asking Congress to protect the park against trespassers and developers, as well as to preserve the wildlife and other natural wonders that exist within the park. In 1916, Congress created, with the approval of President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior to oversee the preservation of national parks and monuments “for the enjoyment of future generations.”
An Act to Create Yellowstone National Park,3/1/1872, General Records of the U.S. Government (ARC 596351)
Petition from citizens praying for the protection of Yellowstone National Park, 3/1888, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Prompted by this memorial from the mayor and other citizens of Philadelphia, the House and Senate commemorated the 130th Anniversary of Washington’s birth by reading aloud his Farewell Address in 1862. In a special joint session held in the House Chamber, the House and Senate, along with several cabinet officials, Justices of the Supreme Court and high-ranking officers of the Army and Navy, gathered to listen to the Secretary of State read the address aloud. Eventually, the reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address became an annual event for the Senate, a tradition that is still observed today. In fact, when the Senate convenes today, after returning from a week-long recess, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will read Washington’s Farewell Address, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the this tradition.
Memorial of the mayor and other citizens of Philadelphia, 1/31/1862, Records of the U.S Senate
Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman uses his caricature Miss Columbia to draw back the curtain revealing a portrait of George Washington in celebration of the First President’s birthday (February 22nd). Honoring Washington’s birthday became a national custom by 1791, just two years after Washington became president, in recognition of his role in creating a free and independent United States.
Untitled by Clifford Berryman, 2/22/1897, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6010235)
Tensions between Congress and President Andrew Johnson reached a boiling point when the President fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, violating the Tenure of Office Act. On February 21, 1868, this resolution to impeach the President was written on a scrap of paper by Representative John Covode (R-PA) and dropped into the hopper. On February 24, 1868 the House voted in favor of impeachment. The subsequent Senate trial resulted with President Johnson escaping removal from office by one vote.
Resolution of Impeachment of President Johnson, 2/21/1868, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 2127356)
Happy Presidents Day?
Congress in the Archives will feature a monthly staff post on our blog. February’s post comes from Center archives specialist, Jessie Kratz.
George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which placed Washington’s birth on February 22, 1732. Americans celebrated Washington’s Birthday long before Congress declared it a federal holiday. The centennial of his birth prompted festivities nationally and Congress established a Joint Committee to arrange for the occasion.
Washington’s Birthday, however, did not become a legal holiday until January 31, 1879 when Congress added February 22nd to the list of holidays to be observed by federal employees in the District of Columbia. The act did not stipulate that employees were to be paid for the holiday—in fact, some government employees in the District of Columbia were paid while others were not. In 1885, Congress resolved this discrepancy with legislation that required federal employees to be paid for all federal holidays and made federal holidays applicable to all federal government employees, including those employed outside the Washington DC area.
Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on February 22nd until well into the 20th Century. However, in 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.” One of the provisions of this act changed the observance of Washington’s Birthday from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. Ironically, this guaranteed that the holiday would never be celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21.
Contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington’s Birthday be changed to “President’s Day.” Visit our featured documents gallery to learn more about George Washington’s Birthday!
S. 623, 1/29/1878, Records of the U.S. Senate
John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth aboard the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. This photo was taken of Glenn exiting Friendship 7, and was collected by the Senate Committee on Aeronautical Space and Science in 1965, who oversaw the operation of NASA at the time. After becoming a Senator in 1973, Glenn was invited by NASA to return to space over three decades after his first flight. Glenn became the oldest man to travel into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on October 29, 1998.
Photo of John H. Glenn in Friendship 7, SEN 89A-F1, Records of the U.S. Senate
By the election of 1800, the nation’s first two parties were beginning to take shape. The Presidential race was hotly contested between the Federalist President, John Adams, and the Democratic-Republican candidate, Thomas Jefferson. Because the Constitution did not distinguish between President and Vice-President in the votes cast by each state’s electors in the Electoral College, both Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr received 73 votes.
According to the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, if two candidates each received a majority of the electoral votes but are tied, the House of Representatives would determine which one would be President. Therefore, the decision rested with the lame duck, Federalist-controlled House of Representatives. Thirty-five ballots were cast over five days but neither candidate received a majority. Many Federalists saw Jefferson as their principal foe, whose election was to be avoided at all costs. But Alexander Hamilton, a well-respected Federalist party leader, hated Burr and advised Federalists in Congress that Jefferson was the safer choice. Finally, on February 17, 1801, on the thirty-sixth ballot, the House elected Thomas Jefferson to be President.
The tie vote between Jefferson and Burr in the 1801 Electoral College pointed out problems with the electoral system. The framers of the Constitution had not anticipated such a tie nor had they considered the possibility of the election of a President or Vice President from opposing factions - which had been the case in the 1796 election. In 1804, the passage of the 12th Amendment corrected these problems by providing for separate Electoral College votes for President and Vice President.
For more information about the Electoral College, please visit the Federal Register’s U.S. Electoral College webpage.
Electoral vote tally, 2/1/1801, Records of the U.S. Senate
Today marks the 100th anniversary for Arizona’s statehood! Check out our image gallery to see a selection of documents we’ve compiled from Arizona’s path to statehood.
Memorial of the Territory of Arizona praying for Statehood, 3/11/1899, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives