Tuesday, February 02, 2010

All That Is Hidden Is Made Known

Early Draft of the Constitution Found in Philadelphia
"The Continuation of the Scheme"

BY Mary Katharine Ham

The founder of a non-profit group that promotes teaching of the U.S. Constitution stumbled on an early draft of it in Philadelphia this week, penned by James Wilson and entitled, "The Continuation of the Scheme."

She was exploring in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, when she connected a short passage on the back of one draft of the Constitution, in Wilson's hand, to the rest of the document, buried in the archives among Wilson's papers.

"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."

As other researchers "realized what was happening, there was a sort of hushed awe that settled over the reading room," Toler said. "One of them said the hair on her arms stood on end."

Two drafts of the Constitution in Wilson's hand had been separated from his papers long ago. One of them included the beginning of still another draft and was apparently seen as part of a single working version, instead of a separate draft.

Toler said "The Continuation of the Scheme," including its provisions about the executive and judiciary branches, completes that draft, making it a third.

I guess there are worse pitches to make to possible donors for a Constitution non-profit than, "Remember that time I found a new draft of the Constitution?"

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