Tag Archives: Constitution

The National Archives refurbs the Magna Carta

One of the really cool things about our National Archives is that it owns a copy of the Magna Carta, aka, The Great Charter of Liberties (thanks to a wealthy philanthropist).  Sadly, if you visit right now, you won’t be able to see it.  The 13th century document is currently getting a makeover of sorts.  Kindly, however, the National Archives has provided this cool looksy at the process.


So, why should you care about a 13th century document that is older than our country?  Well, when the barons had finally had enough of King John–yes, that King John–of King John’s taxes and other policies, they cornered him at Runnymede meadow, and handed him a document that they had written up with some aid by a few bishops on hand.  While they were primarily concerned with looking after themselves, the barons put a few lines in that most important of all legal documents that have become the hallmarks of the Rule of Law and of our dearest-held rights.  It wasn’t much aid  to a woman who wished to bring a rapist to justice (“54: No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon a woman’s appeal for the death of any person other than her husband.”)–although, it does do some mighty fine things for the rights of widows–it nevertheless extended and insisted on the these rights for all free men in the kingdom, regardless of rank (other than that free part).

Try to think about this for a moment: imagine that France had secured a similar document and protected as the English lords would do (several successive kings attempted to do away with it, only to have it be reestablished by the combined might of the aristocracy), would there have ever been a Sun King, a Versailles, a vast centralizing of power in the king, a Marie Antoinette, a French Revolution, and a handful of blood baths?  Would the successive events have been possible if the power had been forcibly decentralized and the early stirrings of a parliament founded when France was still medieval, as happened in England?  Quite plausibly not!

Regardless of France, these United States of America referenced the legacy of the Magna Carta at length both in arguments for fair treatment while still a colony under Britain and in the construction of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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Top Ten Most Popular Posts – Korea, Baseball, Beowulf, Soccer, DC and MORE!

Click on the post title to read it.

1. Korea–a really brief look at how we got here

Surprisingly, my most popular post by over 4000 hits!!  This post is a brief summary of the events that brought us to the point last fall when Korea fired its missiles.

2. Opening Day thoughts about baseball and history

A short post written during the Opening Day week of the current MLB season, this has been a surprisingly popular post, for what is essentially a missive supporting the inclusion of sports–specifically baseball–in our understanding of history.  It is also a panegyric for baseball’s history, the only American sport with such old roots.

3. Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon experience

One of my favorite posts!  In this post, I explored the Anglo-Saxon experience through literature, both modern and Anglo-Saxon.  By following the link, down the page, to the Norton Anthology you can listen to Seanus Heaney read excerpts from his edition of Beowulf; before you start the recording, cue up the video of the fire to recreate the Anglo-Saxon experience.

4. Cover the Earth — Early Modern Red!

Another of my favorite posts, this was written up as a review of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.  It is literally a history of the color red and it’s development in the days when one paid extra for dye–sometimes quite a bit extra!  The history hinges on the discovery of a South American species of insect that produces the color scarlet red.  It is fascinating!

5. Soccer and World History?

In reading The Ball is Round, A global history of Soccer, I stopped to ask whether the author’s claim that soccer, or football, belonged on the modern world history stage was really a necessity.  In the end, while I found different points in his argument compelling, I am not sure that it is quite the requisite he claims it to be.  Still, demonstrating a point by using real events in sports can often make it more memorable and accessible to students.  I think it certainly bears consideration and one should at least take the investigation under advisement and explore the argument and its evidence.

6.  I. Introduction: Spaces and Places | Washington DC, the Place and Space, Series

This was the opening post in a series I wrote up about Washington DC based on the Washington Historical Society’s 2010 conference.  The workshops I attended set up a nice program considering some different themes surrounding the capital city.  In this first post, I introduce that program for the week of blogs that follow, including Washington DC’s spaces and places.

7.  Lessons for History Teachers: How to tell a story through photos

I was stimulated to write by an article for photojournalists and others who establish article and photo-editing.  (Good advice for a blogger, too.)  It spurned me to think of a number of ideas about how to adopt pictures into a more coherent and deliberate teaching strategy.  This post is the result.

8.  It’s Constitution Day!!!

A timely post that picks up traffic in an anticipation of the Robert C. Byrd-created day of Constitution-learning.  It is mandatory that educators spend time on the Constitution every September.

9.  Visualizing Early Washington: A Digital Reconstruction of the Capital ca. 1814

This post really took off in one day when it was StumbledUpon.  Highlighting a brilliant enterprise of collaboration: IT geniuses came together to recreated a historical 3-D representation of Washington DC throughout its eras.  Watch the flick and read about the creation process.

10.  IV. The Capital’s Space | Washington DC, the Place and Space Series

The fourth piece in this series featured a look at the National Mall.  This is a short piece, but popular because of the provided images.

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It’s Constitution Day!!!

Right after the colonists won the War for Independence, they sat down to write some rules, the Articles of the Confederation.  These articles reflected a general suspicion of strong central authority.  For example, the first article established our (somewhat cumbersome) title, The United States of America, and the second article reads:

“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

(I wonder if the Confederates of the Civil War South ever looked at this wistfully or bitterly.)  After we established a name for ourselves, the most unifying statement in the entire document is:

“The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”

Other than that, the states act independently, with the assembled Congress assigned the task of  final arbitrator in disputes among the states, first authority in foreign relations and the sole body allowed to declare war (although, even there, Article 6 has an exception).

Honestly, I find it amazing that the whole thing did not fall apart–especially given the incredibly low success rates of other revolutions to establish free societies.  The period of American history between the war and the establishment of the Constitution bears more scrutiny for most Americans.  Regardless, there is a great dissatisfaction with the situation coming from some prominent Americans, including Alexander Hamilton and b.  So, in the sweltering summer of 1787, the first American government conspiracy was afoot!  As delegates gathered in Philadelphia behind closed doors and locked windows achieving sauna-like secrecy, the future of our capital, our three branches of government and other important details were loudly hammered out with much debate.  Slavery was tabled for another time.  And, the inclusion of a Bill of Rights was tabled for a very short time–getting a unanimous vote on the final draft was only achieved with a promise that the first amendments would be the first ten we have today, also known as the Bill of Rights (a promise that was kept!).

If you can, head down to the Archives and see the original and in the same hall see other important documents historically establishing our freedoms, such as Colorado’s ratification of the 19th Amendment for women’s suffrage.  Otherwise, check out the website at the National Archives and take a look at their Constitution Day events and especially their Charters of Freedom page.  Also, the regular series “Inside the Vaults” features some handwritten and printed documents from the era, pertaining to the Constitution’s history; please, view it below (other videos in the series are also available profiling various sources from vaults inside the Archives):

So, Happy Constitution Day!!  Take a look at it, buy a copy, do something you can do because you have the right to do it . . you know petition the government, state your opinion on government policy, write an article or a blog, say a prayer or don’t (the First Amendment is pretty cool)!

Decorative relief from the Basilica of St. John, Ephesus, Turkey

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