Delegation Secures Agreement to Bring Piece of Delaware History Home

WASHINGTON, D.C. Senators Joseph Biden and Tom Carper and Congressman Mike Castle today were joined by Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner, State Archivist Tim Slavin and State Majority Leader Wayne Smith in Washington, D.C. to announce that they have brokered an agreement to bring a vital piece of Delaware history home for display during the year: Delaware’s original Ratification of the Bill of Rights. Minner, Biden, Carper, Castle, and National Archivist John Carlin signed the Memorandum of Understanding, confirming the agreement. “This document is part of our history,” said Senator Biden. “It is a symbol of who we are as a people, and the values we hold dear. It ties us to our past and reminds us of those principles that will guide us into the future. Today is truly an historic occasion.” “The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees our right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Today that grievance has been redressed. An important part of Delaware’s history will now return home,” Carper said. “This agreement will allow Delawareans greater access to historical documents than ever before. This will bring history alive for all of Delaware’s students.” “We are bringing a piece of our cultural heritage home to Delaware that will help us educate our youngsters about the principles of freedom that make this country and our state so great,” Castle said. “The first time I saw this document at the Archives building in College Park, I became more convinced than ever that we must work to bring it home. Every Delawarean should have the opportunity to view a piece of our history with their own eyes.” “This agreement, like the document, is uniquely Delawarean. It is a win for the citizens of Delaware, who will get a chance to view this amazing document, for the State of Delaware, and for the National Archives, which can share our nation’s heritage with its citizens,” said Governor Minner. Over the past year, the Delegation has been working together to secure the following agreement: 1. 25-year loan deal (subject to renewal)

  • Every year, in Delaware, the Delaware Ratification of the Bill of Rights will be on display for a maximum of 460 hours, most likely from Delaware Day (December 7) to July 4th at the newly renovated gallery at the Delaware Public Archives in Dover, Delaware. When it is not on display, it will be stored in a vault in the Delaware Public Archives.
  • The initial loan period will be from December 7, 2003 through July 4, 2004.
  • After July 4th, it will go back to the National Archives for security and any restoration work that might be needed. The Ratification will be kept in an ultra high security building with early Congressional documents, such as the ratification of the
  • Constitution and other colonial foundation documents that are the proof text of our democracy.
  • While on display, it will be under 24-hour guarded security.
  • While off display, it will be under locked security.

2. American Originals Exhibit

  • Delaware will host the National Archives famous “American Originals” exhibit for 90 days in Delaware sometime in 2004.
  • The exhibition, which features some of the milestone documents in American history such as the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Voting Journal from the Constitution Convention and Thomas Edison’s patent application for the light bulb has traveled to New York City and Chicago and is currently on display in Columbus, Ohio.

3. Pilot Program with National Archives for other Delaware-specific Documents

  • The National Archives will conduct a special pilot program with Delaware to display other Delaware-specific documents that are in the National Archives collection.
  • The details of this pilot program will be worked out with Delaware Archivist Tim Slavin.
  • Other Delaware documents would include letters from historical figures, other documents pertaining to the Civil War and the history of Delaware.

The document, which is ink on parchment, is dated January 28, 1790, and includes the ratification signatures of Jehu Davis and George Mitchell, as well as a ratification message from the Delaware General Assembly. The First Congress sent 12 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution to each of the 13 states in 1789, 10 of which later were ratified as the U.S. Bill of Rights. Each of the states returned certificates of ratification and kept their copy of the proposed amendments, EXCEPT Delaware, which agreed to 11 of the proposed 12 amendments and inscribed their ratification directly on its copy of the proposed Bill of Rights. National Archivist John Carlin made an offer to the Delegation last September which would have allowed display in Delaware of the ratification one week every five years for 25 years. The Delegation turned down the offer and has since been negotiating the agreement detailed above.