Saturday, March 2, 2024

The place is the 14th Modification on the coronary heart of Donald Trump’s poll query? : NPR

Jane Fitzgerald, a senior archivist on the Nationwide Archives, goes by means of the information.

Christina Shaman/NPR


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Christina Shaman/NPR


Jane Fitzgerald, a senior archivist on the Nationwide Archives, goes by means of the information.

Christina Shaman/NPR

The cursive strokes of iron gall ink on parchment despatched my eyes on a curler coaster trip by means of American historical past — swoop, swish and a loop-de-loop.

As I learn from the stretched animal disguise, I blinked twice to recalibrate my mind, which is used to wash, crisp digital fonts — not the wispy script that was a number of toes in entrance of me. So I took my time trying over the unique 14th Modification, questioning how these century-old phrases may form the approaching presidential election.

“Part 3. No individual shall be a Senator or Consultant in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or maintain any workplace, civil or navy, beneath the USA, or beneath any State, who …”

Part 3 of the unique 14th Modification.

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Christina Shaman/NPR

Throughout its 157-year existence, this Civil Struggle-era revision to the U.S. Structure hasn’t garnered the identical consideration as its older cousins: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Structure and the Invoice of Rights.

It did not even get a cameo within the Nicolas Cage journey romp Nationwide Treasure — I checked.

However now, it sits middle stage. On Thursday, the Supreme Court docket will hear arguments over whether or not Part 3 of the 14th Modification bars former President Donald Trump from the poll in Colorado — the end result of which may upend the 2024 presidential election.

Monitoring down historical past

Discovering the 14th Modification was simpler stated than accomplished. My search began again in January on the rotunda on the Nationwide Archives in Washington, D.C.

I checked each thick glass case — no doc. Nevertheless it was shut.

The 14th Modification was on show simply beneath the rotunda in an exhibit known as “Data of Rights.” The general public was in a position to view the doc for 3 months earlier than it was cycled out of the exhibit again in 2013.

So the place is the 14th Modification now?

The viewing room within the Nationwide Archives.

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The viewing room within the Nationwide Archives.

Christina Shaman/NPR

The unique paperwork are delicate to each mild and humidity.

Christina Shaman/NPR


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Christina Shaman/NPR


The unique paperwork are delicate to each mild and humidity.

Christina Shaman/NPR

One aspect of the Nationwide Archives is devoted to public viewing, whereas the opposite aspect, which faces Pennsylvania Avenue, is devoted to analysis and preservation. After latest renovations, archivists moved the 14th Modification to the analysis aspect.

This part known as the “preservation room” in Nationwide Treasure. And it is supposedly much less safe than the remainder of the constructing. False on each counts — I checked.

However it’s the place workers look after, protect and preserve the USA’ most cherished paperwork. And it is for that reason that the Nationwide Archives was one of many first buildings in Washington, D.C., to have air con.

After going by means of an airport-level safety examine, I lastly made it to the viewing room.

Preserving historical past

I wasn’t anticipating a lot purple leather-based — like a pleasant outdated Cadillac inside.

I used to be chaperoned by Morgan Browning, a senior conservator on the Nationwide Archives, who guides me to a big ebook certain by hot-red leather-based that accommodates the 14th Modification.

And after a number of flips by means of the ebook — it took a second as a result of they misplaced the bookmark — Browning lastly discovered it.

“The pages are parchment, which is derived from animal pores and skin,” Browning informed me. “As soon as it’s dehaired and all of the blood vessels, every part, is eliminated, it’s stretched onto a body.”

Browning defined how clerks on Capitol Hill on the time had been skilled in calligraphy to put in writing newly minted legal guidelines and amendments utilizing iron gall ink.

Morgan Browning was my information by means of historical past.

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Morgan Browning was my information by means of historical past.

Christina Shaman/NPR

“It was the predominant ink of this period going again into antiquity and was used even up till the twentieth century,” he stated. “It is a combination of a wide range of elements: tannic acid, ferrous sulfate, water after which gum arabic, which is derived from the sap of a tree.”

Total, it is a particularly sturdy substance, however Browning stated it’s particularly delicate to each mild and humidity.

At the same time as he defined this, I seen the perimeters of the 14th Modification curling only a bit, reacting to its new atmosphere stuffed with home windows and respiratory individuals. It is usually housed in an archival field and a shadow-filled room, nevertheless it was introduced out for this event.

Browning noticed the parchment’s undulations too, and we stated our goodbyes to this historic doc that the Supreme Court docket will quickly take up.

“It’s all fairly thrilling,” Browning stated, as he put the doc away.

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