The National Archives put on public display on Friday the “fifth page” of the Constitution, a document that hasn’t been seen in public before.
The Constitution we all learned about in school and read about today has four pages, and it contains the basic articles that led to the formation of the current U.S. government.
The fifth page is known as the transmittal page of the Constitution and the Resolutions of the Constitutional Convention, and the National Archives will make it available to public viewing for a week in Washington, D.C., starting today.
Link: Read The Page
The Constitution Resolution was signed by George Washington and includes the instructions about how the Constitution should be ratified and put into effect.
How important was the document? Here's a passage from a blog written last week from the National Archives discussing the letter:
"Without the resolution, the Constitution, in the words of James Madison, 'was nothing more than the draft of a plan, nothing but a dead letter, until life and validity were breathed into it by the voice of the people,'" said the Archives.
The document also includes the instructions for how the first presidential election should be conducted, as well as the critical process of how the new government should replace the one established by the Articles Of Confederation.
The event marks a celebration of the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on Monday. The Letter of Transmittal can be seen in the East Rotunda Gallery in the National Archives Building.
The page now lives in an oxygen-free encasement along with the original Declaration of Independence, the four-page Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Archives started work on the current restoration in 1999.
The National Archives also released a video that shows the detailed restoration process involved with the Transmittal page.
A bigger historical mystery is the whereabouts of a sixth page that accompanied the Constitution and Washington’s instructions to Congress. It was transcribed at the time, but it was also meant as a private letter.
Washington sent a note to Arthur St. Clair, the president of the existing Congress. The letter explained why the Constitutional Convention met and the rationale behind the new, stronger central government.
“Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest,” the letter said. “We hope and believe; that [the Constitution] may promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.”
Recent Constitution Daily Stories
Pop quiz: 10 basic Constitution questions! Electoral College tie becomes a growing possibility 10 fun facts about the Constitution and Constitution Day Constitution Hall Pass: Go inside the presidency