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A New World Is At Hand
July 4, 2008 5:38 AM   Subscribe

These are the documents that started it all. The Charters of Freedom. As the USA celebrates another Independence Day, the National Archives presents the historical development of the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and their impact upon the nation and the world.
posted by netbros (56 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's just a bunch of goddamned html pages!
posted by mazola at 6:11 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, is this the official Homeland Security redacted version of the bill of rights, or the original?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:11 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well my heart kicked up a beat, because I thought I was going to see some new archival materials (Thomas Jefferson's notes? Early municipal documents from the colonial era? Ancient Inca texts?) predating the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but I gather that these *are* the so-called "Charters of Freedom." (cue inspirational music). What, did the marketing guys decide they weren't compelling enough on their own? Now we're branding our national heritage? I am, ironically, speechless.
posted by nax at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2008


I always get a little weepy when I read our National ToS.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:23 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Haven't these EULA's been struck down by the courts yet?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:28 AM on July 4, 2008


Every year around this time the paper runs the same damn editorial, and it never makes sense. Whoever writes this shit sure has it in for the king of England, and he picks on the strangest things - "sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people", my ass.

Besides, there's been a queen for like, what, twenty years now? Give it up, dude.
posted by yhbc at 6:37 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


mary8nne: Perhaps my words could have been better chosen. My meaning in "started it all" was about the United States as an independent nation. And hopefully you will understand the USA centricity on this, our Independence Day.

My apologies to you for your interpretation of arrogance.
posted by netbros at 6:44 AM on July 4, 2008


Everyone who had "more than ten" for "how many comments before USian-centric" complaint owes me a buck. Double if you said it would not contain the word "arrogant".
posted by yhbc at 6:47 AM on July 4, 2008


With these Charters of Freedom under a vicious attack by the Bush administration the time is now for action from the citizens. One place to start, is with the impending telcom immunity bill. If your Senator is on this list call him or her and and encourage them to support the Dodd/Feingold bill stripping telcom immunity from FISA. If you can't call write. It's the patriotic thing to do.
posted by caddis at 6:48 AM on July 4, 2008


I came over here for my yearly snark about Americans asking if we celebrate Independence Day in the UK, and find everyone is already snarking at one another.

Congratulations one and all.
posted by twine42 at 6:53 AM on July 4, 2008


Hmm,...you do realise there are people living outside the US that also spend time on Metafilter?

Well, these documents had quite an effect on Europe, served as the inspiration for many other struggles against colonial domination, and have been the blue print for human rights-claims the world over. They really did 'start it all.' Still, this is a pretty weak post.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:57 AM on July 4, 2008


typical arrogant US behaviour.

Hey, we had a Canada Day thread on July 1... but we disguised it as a thread about Gordon Lightfoot (well, covers of Cdn songs actually), lol. I don't see the problem in making a country specific thread on the birth date of said country. You know, we've had threads about Australia Day in the past.

Happy birthday USA cousins, I hope this new year is a good one!
posted by zarah at 6:59 AM on July 4, 2008


For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.


Some fucking things never change.
posted by three blind mice at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Hmm,...you do realise there are people living outside the US that also spend time on Metafilter?

i'm aware that some people call that living, yes ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2008


I just checked the Wiki page for 4/7 to see what else happened today that would allow a location-centric expectation on the internet and discovered that American gave independence to the Philippines on 4/7/1946...

Yes, yes indeed... We demand independence. So we can go take that land over there from the Spanish... :)

Did they run out of oil coal to liberate...?
posted by twine42 at 7:04 AM on July 4, 2008


Some fucking things never change.

Pardon my French.
posted by three blind mice at 7:04 AM on July 4, 2008


Actually, the documents started nothing; they merely reflect what a group of men decided to do at great risk to themselves and their families, as well as to all who supported their bid to end the tyranny of the crown.

They are the words that followed the action, but what magnificent words they are.
posted by bwg at 7:07 AM on July 4, 2008


arrogant

The word is "ignorant." People just simply not thinking about it.

Arrogance is actually kind of flattering. Like netbros thought of making this FPP all we-are-the-world, but at the last minute decided, "It's Independence Day, to the hell with those foreigners." That would be way cooler than just not thinking about it.
posted by three blind mice at 7:12 AM on July 4, 2008


What, no Articles of Confederation?
posted by noble_rot at 7:15 AM on July 4, 2008


...I gather that these *are* the so-called "Charters of Freedom." (cue inspirational music). What, did the marketing guys decide they weren't compelling enough on their own? Now we're branding our national heritage? I am, ironically, speechless.

Ummm...have you ever been to the National Archives Rotunda in D.C.? "Charters of Freedom" is the name of the hall and the archival collection.

"The term Charters of Freedom is used to describe the three documents in early American history which are considered instrumental to its founding and philosophy. These documents are the United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. While the term has not entered particularly common usage, the room at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. that houses the three documents is called the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom."*

Charters of Freedom and Murals
"Each year, more than 1.5 million visitors come to the National Archives Rotunda to see our country’s founding Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. While waiting in line to experience the Charters, visitors enjoy studying two large murals, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, which adorn the Rotunda walls and illuminate the historic moments when each of these documents that define our democracy were signed."
posted by ericb at 7:19 AM on July 4, 2008


Hmm,...you do realise there are people living outside the US that also spend time on Metafilter?

Yeah, but they're just bogans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 AM on July 4, 2008


Well, these documents had quite an effect on Europe, served as the inspiration for many other struggles against colonial domination, and have been the blue print for human rights-claims the world over. They really did 'start it all.'

Yep, just like these documents were themselves very influenced by other documents from Europe. I'm certainly happy that you all decided to keep the habeus corpus, after all - it's an oldie, but a goodie.
posted by jb at 7:39 AM on July 4, 2008


served as the inspiration for many other struggles against colonial domination

Specifically, Ho Chi Minh's Vietnamese Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:53 AM on July 4, 2008


Not that I can spell habeas corpus, because I am a stupid illiterate peasant. I'll go back to my plowing now.

(jeez, it's been a while, but I can't believe I conjugated that verb as if it were an adjective. There goes all my medieval re-enacter geek cred.)
posted by jb at 7:57 AM on July 4, 2008


Louis MacNeice - Prayer before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
     club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
     with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
        on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
     to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
        in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
     when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
        my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
           my life when they murder by means of my
              hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
     old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
        frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
            waves call me to folly and the desert calls
              me to doom and the beggar refuses
                 my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
     come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
     humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
        would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
           one face, a thing, and against all those
              who would dissipate my entirety, would
                 blow me like thistledown hither and
                    thither or hither and thither
                       like water held in the
                          hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

posted by blue_beetle at 8:25 AM on July 4, 2008


sorry about the formatting, I forgot about the formatting bug.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:26 AM on July 4, 2008


O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

posted by EarBucket at 8:33 AM on July 4, 2008


The Thomas Jefferson digital archive. Thomas Jefferson on politics and government - quotations from Thomas Jefferson. Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library.
posted by gudrun at 9:27 AM on July 4, 2008


@twine42
I came over here for my yearly snark about Americans asking if we celebrate Independence Day in the UK, and find everyone is already snarking at one another.

Just reply as I do - "Actually, we do celebrate the 4th of July in the UK, but we call it 'Thanksgiving'." :-)

I do try to pick and choose which Americans to actually use that line on, though - some of them wouldn't get it. :-)


Happy Independence Day to all our US MeFite cousins.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:29 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


ericb: When I was in Washington DC it was more than 2 decades ago and I'm pretty sure they didn't have this marketing-inspired "Charters of Freedom" bullshit then. Nor did I ever hear that term in 14 years of American primary-secondary schooling or ever since. Nor do I recall it from the 1976 national tour of these documents. I guess I'm just out of touch. Or else not as susceptible to bullshit marketing manipulations as you young folks.

(and get off my lawn )
posted by nax at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


bullshit marketing manipulations

Goes with the terrritory. The mural page mentions how "The Constitution is a fictional scene of James Madison offering the final draft of the Constitution to George Washington" installed in the 1930s. National founding myths are all about encrusting history with an accretion of bullshit iconic fiction: see Ray Raphael and James Loewen.
posted by raygirvan at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2008


When I was in Washington DC it was more than 2 decades ago and I'm pretty sure they didn't have this marketing-inspired "Charters of Freedom" bullshit then. Nor did I ever hear that term in 14 years of American primary-secondary schooling or ever since.

we had something very similar in my high school in the early 70s - "hall of freedom" or "hall of liberty" or something like that - copies of all the documents, including fdr's declaration of war against japan and other things, behind glass cases - then a little further down all the sports trophies

why yes, my high school DID suck - what made you think of it?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 AM on July 4, 2008


"In 1951 the Charters of Freedom were encased in glass and bronze containers filled with helium." [photo].

"The Charters of Freedom, on display at the National Archives since 1952, will be preserved for future generations with the help of a $1 million grant from AT&T." [photo]. *
posted by ericb at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2008


More on the preservation efforts:
"In 1982 the National Archives invited a panel of respected scientists and preservation professionals to assess the preservation needs of the Charters of Freedom. They advised comparing images of the Charters made at intervals over time to look for changes that might raise concerns.

The National Archives turned to the Imaging Processing Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to assist in this effort. Borrowing technology from America's space program, the JPL developed an imaging system like that used in space exploration. The resulting Charters Monitoring System (CMS) created digital image files by scanning one-inch squares on each document.

During imaging, the encased document lay on a tabletop with legs that floated on nitrogen in cylinders, which acted as shock absorbers to eliminate vibration. An overhead charged-couple device 'camera' captured the relative brightness of 1,024 lines of 1,024 pixels in each patch through glass layers, using precise positioning to allow return to the exact spot in future scans.

The National Archives received the Charters Monitoring System in 1987. Conservation staff made baseline measurements for patches on the pages of the Charters. In following years, patches were re-scanned and compared pixel by pixel to the baseline image, looking for physical changes.

In 1996, after more than 125 scans, staff reported the findings. The CMS did not reveal feared changes in ink intensity or loss of ink. In all the scans on the seven encased documents, just one insecure flake of ink was noted on a raised ridge of parchment on the Transmittal Page of the Constitution.

But if the ink of 1787 was holding its own, the encasements of 1951 were not.

The CMS space-age technology ultimately confirmed findings made in 1987 with the microscope: minute crystals and microdroplets of liquid were found on surfaces of the two glass sheets over each document. The scans confirmed that these changes in the glass progressed between 1987 and 1995. Conservators using a binocular microscope could see crystals and liquid droplets on the glass surfaces. These signs of glass deterioration were a clue to the relative humidity inside the encasements. Glass deteriorates at a relative humidity greater than 40 percent. But the encasement helium had been carefully humidified to 30 percent. This low humidity was intended to minimize parchment hydrolysis, a chemical term that means 'water cutting.' The CMS scans confirmed evidence of progressive glass deterioration, which was a major impetus in deciding to re-encase the Charters of Freedom."
posted by ericb at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2008


PBS/NOVA television show: Saving the National Treasures.
"Never have a few pieces of animal hide been subject to such meticulous and expensive attention. But these aren't just any old pieces of parchment. They are America's priceless Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights....NOVA captures the consultations of a blue-ribbon panel appointed to preserve the Charters using whatever technology necessary." [video preview]
posted by ericb at 10:57 AM on July 4, 2008


The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most masterfully written state paper of Western civilization. As Moses Coit Tyler noted almost a century ago, no assessment of it can be complete without taking into account its extraordinary merits as a work of political prose style. Although many scholars have recognized those merits, there are surprisingly few sustained studies of the stylistic artistry of the Declaration. This essay seeks to illuminate that artistry by probing the discourse microscopically -- at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and syllable. By approaching the Declaration in this way, we can shed light both on its literary qualities and on its rhetorical power as a work designed to convince a "candid world" that the American colonies were justified in seeking to establish themselves as an independent nation.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2008


Or else not as susceptible to bullshit marketing manipulations as you young folks.

Or to PBS -- and the other 31,600 Google results for the exact phrase: "charters of freedom".
posted by ericb at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2008


*Or as PBS*
posted by ericb at 11:05 AM on July 4, 2008


JPL developed and called their imaging system the Charters Monitoring System (CMS). I guess those space-age fuckers fell for some marketing manipulation, too!
posted by ericb at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2008


Just because it NOW says "The Charters of Freedom blah blah blah" doesn't mean it always did. "Displayed since 1952" means just that, it doesn't mean "called The Charters of Freedom" since 1952. I have never heard this phrase before. You really cannot prove that statement wrong no matter what you quote, because in fact it isn't wrong. I have never heard this phrase before. Not you, not google (gosh-31,600 hits! It *must* be real!) Further, I believe it is marketing bullshit from the vast rightwing conspiracy that comes up with these phrases while systematically destroying the actual basis of freedom. I think those of you buying this crap are patsies unable to think for yourselves.

Thank you for spending your morning proving me wrong. Move on, nothing more to see here.
posted by nax at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2008


I guess I'm just out of touch.

Ya' think?
posted by ericb at 11:08 AM on July 4, 2008


JPL named their Charters Monitoring System in 1982 when asked by the National Archives. It was completed (in Danbury, CT) and moved to the National Archives in 1987, as noted by their press release of April 24, 1987.
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2008


*...when asked by the National Archives for assistance.*
posted by ericb at 11:14 AM on July 4, 2008


I believe it is marketing bullshit from the vast rightwing conspiracy that comes up with these phrases while systematically destroying the actual basis of freedom.

Oh my!

I have heard the phrase from a long time ago. Hence, my original posting. This has got me curious. I just left a voicemail message with a friend who is a curator at the National Archives, seeking clarification on the origin of the term (who, when, etc.). When/if I hear back from her, I'll share the info. But, even then I don't expect you to let me on your lawn!
posted by ericb at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2008


I'm guessing something early in the thread was unpublished, because I can't make heads or tails of most of this.

Anyway, Happy 4th of July to everyone lucky enough to be an American, and happy whatever to everyone lucky enough not to be.
posted by Justinian at 11:24 AM on July 4, 2008


The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence

Once you get past the adulatory preface, that's very worth reading as a sharp and not entirely uncritical analysis of the highly rhetorical wording (for instance, the clever spin implicit in the "facts to a candid world" phrase, which frames the following statements with the assumption that if the audience doesn't buy them, the audience isn't candid rather than the asserted facts being unreliable).
posted by raygirvan at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2008


called The Charters of Freedom" since 1952

Actually this is checkable: newspaper archives, books, etc. Here, for starters, is a 1965 reference to use of the term for the particular installation, and here are plenty suggesting the term "Charters of Freedom" for these documents dates back at least to the 1950s. That's not to rule out the possibility that the phrase might have been particularly hyped in recent years.
posted by raygirvan at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting short video on the preservation process: NASA Destination Tomorrow segment: Charters of Freedom.
posted by ericb at 11:45 AM on July 4, 2008


This discussion has led me to finding an interesting book: The Charters Of Freedom - "A New World Is At Hand" (which I've just ordered). It should be a fun read.
posted by ericb at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2008


>That's not to rule out the possibility that the phrase might have been particularly hyped in recent years.

Perhaps the vast right-wing conspiracy can manipulate all information, everywhere, to retroactively insert their insidious phrases in past articles, or has mastered time travel.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2008


raygirvan -- good stuff. From digging around your links it even appears that as early as 1942 the National Archives published a publication called Charters of Freedom. From Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 1942 | page 374:
"Charters of Freedom is an outstanding new publication of the National Archives (Publication No. 53-14. Pp 12. $.25). Here, for the first time, readable facsimiles of three great documents of American history -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
posted by ericb at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


@Nice Guy Mike My answer is normally "We do... just not for the same reason you do"

I prefer your answer though...
posted by twine42 at 3:34 PM on July 4, 2008


Even despite all the dumbass snark from some puerile posters, this was a great post. Thanks netbros, and also ericb.
posted by caddis at 7:32 PM on July 4, 2008


I celebrated the 4th today, but not the way I used to.

I didn't read the Declaration in full as I had in years past, as now it's just a piece of paper, and its bill of particulars against George the Third seems uncannily like what we should be indicting George the 43rd for, except Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table.

It's sad for me, these days, as I used to be an ardent patriot who believed that whatever our faults as Americans, we at least held to high ideals. Now we're a nation that tortures, and perhaps worse, a nation where torture instead of being decries, is now promulgated and rationalized by our highest officials.

It's sad, because I've lost something more than just a rosy image of our national past, but most of my hope for our future as a nation, as a nation built on that Declaration signed two-hundred thirty-two years ago.

What hope I regained in the Obama candidacy turned to ashes in my mouth when Obama equivocated on FISA, when he decided that our privacy and liberty are just pawns on the political chessboard or frivolities to be bartered away to any modern day Barbary pirate.

It's sad, and I feel old because my country demonstrates daily it is no longer a young republic, but has sunk into the decadent senescence of an empire, complete with circuses and Praetorians and feeble-minded emperors.

So I watched the fireworks, and I listened to the Sousa marches, but I didn't feel much other than a heavy regret that our time as a nation has passed. That we are no longer a light unto the world, no longer a shining city on the hill, but a menace to the world and a mounting disaster at home.

I imagine that I am far from unique in this; that men felt this in Athens and in Rome, probably in Babylon and Nineveh too. "Cities and Thrones and Powers", etc., as Kipling (himself a subject of a dying empire) wrote.

Patriotism is I guess more suited to youth: to young men, and to young countries. Now the 4th just makes me feel old, and to long for what we might have been had we been truer to our American ideals.

And so the Declaration, which once rung out for me as a promise and a sacred trust, no longer rings for me, but mocks me as a promised unfulfilled, indeed perverted; a tissue of words more used by confidence men and jackals to lure young men to war, to twist their valor to the profits of oligarchs and oil companies, to serve the tyrants while forging their own chains of slavery, all in the name of the document that served to initially to birth our nation and set us free from tyranny.
posted by orthogonality at 7:43 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


orthogonality, I favorited your comment as in many ways I feel exactly the same. I do not, however, share the same despair over our future. I think the neocons and fundies responsible for much of our current mess have shot themselves in the foot by putting their own power over the needs of not only the country, but their own constituencies. There is a new sheriff coming to town, and while he may be as ambitious as all the rest, and willing to horse trade here or there, I think we will start to unwind some of this evil doing that the country has been committing these past eight years, especially with majorities in both houses. These damages though are not easily undone and the ease with which they were implemented scares me. If GW had been smarter, more cunning, he could perhaps have become a true emperor. Just imagine if Tricky Dick had been given this opportunity, or worse yet someone with real charisma, a dark heart, and exquisite cunning. (There are some right wingers now fomenting just such fear about Obama - they acknowledge and fear his charisma and intelligence, but merely imply his bad intent because it differs from theirs.) I first read "It Can't Happen Here" after 9/11. If I had read it before it would have seemed quaint, rather than terrifying.
posted by caddis at 8:27 PM on July 4, 2008


Cause for Alarm
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2008


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