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The Continuation of the Scheme
February 2, 2010 3:34 PM   Subscribe

"This was national scripture, a piece of our Constitution's history," she said of her find in November. "It was difficult to keep my hands from trembling."
posted by Joe Beese (40 comments total)

 
The language of this article is conflicted. It seems like Lorianne & Consource are pushing this as a discovery, while the Historical Society are backpedaling and saying "yeah, we knew it was there."

And why is the third photo a random pic of Lorianne Updike Toler in front of the Bodleian in Oxford?
posted by honest knave at 3:43 PM on February 2, 2010


So the draft was found in the collections of a historical society....

In other news, a group of Chicago locals have discovered a Picasso painting in an area museum. Film at 11.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:45 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The document was known to scholars, but probably should have been placed with the other drafts, said constitutional scholar John P. Kaminski

This is harrowing. It reminds me of the time we were late paying the oil bill because I absentmindedly put it in the "paid" folder.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:47 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


So how many times does the word "suckers" appear?
posted by Toby Dammit X at 3:48 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


honest knave: "... the Historical Society are backpedaling and saying "yeah, we knew it was there.""

Knowing they've got some old paper sitting around and knowing that it's a draft of the Constitution is a pretty sizable difference.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:50 PM on February 2, 2010


Shades of David Oxley: "New evidence unearthed by local enthusiasts reveals a startlingly different picture".
posted by greycap at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2010


Man! I totally forgot this was down here! Wow. This brings back some memories... remember when Franklin got all crunked up on hemp and started reading all of Hancock's letters in that silly voice? ha! Man, good times.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


The document - one of 21 million in the Historical Society's collection - was known to scholars, but probably should have been placed with the other drafts

There isn't quite enough context for me to tell if I think this is a big deal or not, but when researchers discover something super-exciting, the special collections folk are just as excited as anybody else. This mostly seems like somebody trying to make a huge thing out of a minor cataloging issue.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2010


Metafilter: The Continuation of the Scheme.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:08 PM on February 2, 2010


I think we're reading this the wrong way. From the article:

Early draft of the Constitution found in Phila.

I surmise that this is a historic spelling of phyllo, the paper-thin sheets of raw, unleavened flour dough used for making pastries in Middle Eastern, Greek and other regional cuisines. See, this finding of a document hidden in the stuff of baklava and spanakopita shows some early ties to Turkey and Greece. The concern is that some people might misconstrue that 1) no one really took those documents seriously if they were planning on eating them after they were finished, and 2) there was some middle-eastern involvement in the creation of our proud Christian nation. This is indeed epic news! All the while, those old fuddy-duddies at the historical society thought they had unused bakery products, the fools!
posted by filthy light thief at 4:08 PM on February 2, 2010


From the article:

The document - one of 21 million in the Historical Society's collection - was known to scholars,

This kind of thing happens often. The archives I work at had a copy of Abraham LIncoln's proposed 13th amendent with an accompanying letter to the governor, both signed by Lincoln. My Civil War professor told us about it before I even started working in the archives (it was one of the first things I went to look for when I got stacks access). Then some scholars ran across it, notified the media and it was a big story. All good, we got some positive press on it, put it on display and got some increased traffic.

We also have a state copy of an 1850 or 1860 census where the enumerator listed the names of the slaves, something rarely done. I'm told that gets "discovered" every 20 years or so, once since I've been there.

Archives have a lot of cool of hell stuff in them that often the archivists and some scholars know about. Sometimes not, because collections are rarely described down to the item level. I could go on, but I gotta go...
posted by marxchivist at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


At this point, I would think most of the 250 year old documents and such are in the hands of archivists, but as this story indicates, that doesn't mean they necessarily know what they have.

(Most.)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2010


I love that the woman describes the draft of the Constitution as scripture.

Pretty apt. The US' Constitution-worship does baffle me sometimes. It's just a document written by a bunch of drunken aristocrats in a bit of a rush, not some magical message from God proclaiming the best possible government. Blindly following it--or rabidly interpreting it--does not a good government make. And yet, if you said on the US news: "Oh... well, I think that we need to rethink the constitution in some ways..." it'd be up there with saying "Let's eat babies!"

Sigh.
posted by festivemanb at 4:24 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: a huge thing out of a minor cataloging issue.
posted by GuyZero at 4:26 PM on February 2, 2010


I love that the woman describes the draft of the Constitution as scripture.

It made me wonder how the separation of church and state works when you start worshiping the state itself.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


festivemanb: "It's just a document written by a bunch of drunken aristocrats in a bit of a rush, not some magical message from God proclaiming the best possible government."

Tell that to the Mormons.
posted by brundlefly at 4:39 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


And yet, if you said on the US news: "Oh... well, I think that we need to rethink the constitution in some ways..."

Honestly, this would scare me to death, even under the new administration. Better the devil you know.
posted by doteatop at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: The US' Constitution-worship does baffle me sometimes.

Really? It was the first time that a government had been founded on the idea that citizens have rights, that they are entitled to protection from government action, that a philosophy of individual freedom circumscribed governmental powers. It's a fantastic accomplishment. It has altered the world for the better in more ways than you can imagine.

Why wouldn't you find that amazing?
posted by A-Train at 4:43 PM on February 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Let's play David Letterman.

"Okay, tonight's top 10: The Top 10 Most surprising clauses in the First draft of the consitution"

"So did you hear about this, Paul?"

"Hear about what?"

"Apparently, they found an early draft of the constitution in Philadelphia earlier this week."

"Oh really.."

"Yeah, and they found some surprises. A few things that kinda got left out in the final draft...here we go #10."

"#10: "Out -- Free Speech -- In: Free Beer."

---

Somebody who is actually funny can do the rest.
posted by empath at 4:43 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love that the woman describes the draft of the Constitution as scripture.

Well, she also compares her discovery of the document to an event out of the movie National Treasure. She even name checks Nic Cage. Talk about mixing the sacred with the profane...
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2010


. . . It's just a document written by a bunch of drunken aristocrats in a bit of a rush, not some magical message from God proclaiming the best possible government.

Of course not, but at least it can be amended. If you amend a monarchy, you have to have a Cromwell, and what a mess that is.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:56 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


honest knave writes "And why is the third photo a random pic of Lorianne Updike Toler in front of the Bodleian in Oxford?"

Because she's reading for a master's degree at LMH.
posted by ahughey at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2010


marxchivist: I initially thought you were referring to '13th amendment', glad you clarified with a link to what you were referring to. Some people are enthralled with the Nobility amendment.
posted by el io at 5:03 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]




Metafilter: The Continuation of the Scheme.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:08 PM on February 2



Good one. WE WILL CARRY ON........
posted by bjgeiger at 5:12 PM on February 2, 2010


And yet, if you said on the US news: "Oh... well, I think that we need to rethink the constitution in some ways..." it'd be up there with saying "Let's eat babies!"

I guess America has "eaten babies" 27 times.
posted by Falconetti at 5:14 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Number 9: The State of Union cannot be scheduled against the premiere of Lost.

Paul: That's really in there?

Dave: The founders had a lot of foresight...
posted by empath at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2010


Number 8: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Late Night Talk Show hosts the exclusive Right to their 11:30 time slot."

audience: *groan*

Paul: ouch..
posted by empath at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


My thought process as I read the article:

Cool. Can't wait to read some choice highlights from that thing in this article.
...Gee, those historians sure sound excited. These highlights are going to be great.
...Still no highlights. Maybe they're going to link to the full text at the end.
...I haven't seen so much hype about a historical American document since National Treasure. Can't wait to read it.
...Okay, I get the point. It's a well-preserved draft of the Constitution. Just show it to me already.
...Oh look, somebody referenced National Treasure just like I was thinking. Ha ha.
...And now the introduction's over, time to read the thing. I'll just click this lin...
...Oh. Crap.


Continuation of a scheme, indeed.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2010


This is nonsense:

With so many historical documents "going online, you don't have that kind of discovery in an archives," he added. "I can understand why [Toler] would be excited."
posted by Morrigan at 5:52 PM on February 2, 2010


Where are the diffs?
posted by wobh at 6:11 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yet, if you said on the US news: "Oh... well, I think that we need to rethink the constitution in some ways..." it'd be up there with saying "Let's eat babies!"

And what's wrong with eating babies?
posted by swift at 6:16 PM on February 2, 2010


Duh, babies are only good for garnish. You don't eat garnish.
posted by spicynuts at 8:45 PM on February 2, 2010


No. 7: "Note to self, don't forget to fix typo in second amendment, right of people to keep and arm BEARS...Bennie F"
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


ObCollegeStudentRef: "It doesn't matter man, it was just done by a bunch of elites, man, and like, we're all owned by corporations now so it doesn't matter man!"

Oops, I see someone already beat me too it.
posted by happyroach at 8:51 PM on February 2, 2010


it can be amended. If you amend a monarchy, you have to have a Cromwell, and what a mess that is.

Well, you can have a constitutional monarchy, which is what Britain has ended up with after Cromwell. The Acts of Settlement and Uniformity are amendments to the monarch's status and powers, as is the Bill of Rights. The Danes, oddly, had both an absolute monarchy and a written constitution in 1848: you had no rights, but at least you got it in writing.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:53 PM on February 2, 2010


In other news, a group of Chicago locals have discovered a Picasso painting in an area museum. Film at 11.

Right, but this is like finding the Picasso hanging in the Museum of Science and Industry.
posted by eriko at 6:11 AM on February 3, 2010




She "found a document that was sort of buried in its right place, but not taken out by an archivist for special treatment," said Kaminski, the constitutional scholar. "This is a valuable document. It is in Wilson's hand, and it was in Wilson's papers, where it should have been."


Right, but this is like finding the Picasso hanging in the Museum of Science and Industry.

Yes, in the Picasso section.
posted by horsemuth at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2010


festivemanb: "The US' Constitution-worship does baffle me sometimes. It's just a document written by a bunch of drunken aristocrats in a bit of a rush, not some magical message from God proclaiming the best possible government. Blindly following it--or rabidly interpreting it--does not a good government make."

From Thomas "T.J." Jefferson's foreward to America: The Book:
I was also looking forward to this opportunity to dispel some of the mythology surrounding myself and my fellow Founders -- particularly the myth of our infallibility. You moderns have a tendency to worship at the altar of the Fathers. "The First Amendment is sacrosanct!" "We will die to protect the Second Amendment!" So dramatic. Do you know why we called them amendments? Because they amend! They fix mistakes or correct omissions and they themselves can be changed. If we had meant for the Constitution to be written in stone we would have written it in stone. Most things were written in stone back then, you know. I'm not trying to be difficult but it's bothersome when you blame your own inflexibility and extremism on us.

Not that we weren't awesome. We wrote the Constitution in the time it takes you nimrods to figure out which is the aye butting and which is the nay button. But we weren't gods. We were men, We had flaws. Adams was an unbearable prick and squealed girlishly whenever he saw a bug. And Ben Franklin? If crack existed in our day, that boozed-up snuff machine would weigh 80 pounds and live outside the Port Authority. And I had slaves. Damn, I can't believe I had slaves!

Yes, we were very accomplished. We discovered electricity, invented stoves, bifocals, the lazy susan, efficient printing presses, and the swivel chair. But in the 18th century it was nearly impossible not to invent something. "What if we put this refuse in a receptacle?" "Oh my God you just invented a sanitation system!" We lived in primitive times. Hell, I shit in a bucket and I was the president.

But I digress. My point is composing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution was hard work. God didn't dictate it for us to transcribe from some sort of dictation-transcribing machine. Hey, did I just invent something? Do you have anything like that? You do? Hmm. Well, our purpose was to create a living document based on principles that transcended the times we lived in, and I think we did that. We created a blueprint for a system that would endure, which means your lazy asses shouldn't be coasting on our accomplishments. We were imperfect. It was imperfect. And we expect our descendants to work as hard as we did on keeping what we think is a profoundly excellent form of government supple, evolving and relevant. After reading this book, you should be better prepared to do just that.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:44 AM on February 3, 2010


As someone with a lot of stuff in a lot of online piles, I just wanted to contribute that the Wandering Eye of the Masses has a tendency to hyperfocus on things very effectively, raining down attention, punditry and concern on an arbitrary piece of a larger whole. It's capricious (except when someone is trying to plant the story), random (except when someone is trying to plant the story) and dissipates in moments (unless someone is trying to keep the planted story alive).

So many times, a random piece of ephemera I have on my collection will get some large amount of attention, while just a few clicks away in various directions, even more wonderful and neat stuff lies in wait. It's just kind of the way things are.

So it's not surprising that something might be known about, and it's just the combination of a person who makes more noise when they find things and being able to frame the presentation in easy to digest form causes a relatively unspectacular item to hit the spotlight.

It just happens.

For example, this flash animation on my site plows out hundreds of accesses a month. But this other flash animation plows out THOUSANDS.
posted by jscott at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2010


Boston 1775 has a pretty good rundown on why this is much ado about nothing. He also links to the HSP's blog post on the subject, which is a model of restraint.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:42 AM on February 14, 2010


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