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Mamradpivo's avatar

Is there an official copy of the Constitution somewhere?

Asked by Mamradpivo (9618 points ) July 2nd, 2010 from iPhone

I know it’s been a few decades since the USA last amended its Constitution, but is there an official copy someplace where future amendments would be recorded? I mean, they don’t pull the parchment from the National Archives. Or do they?

Does anyone know where the standard copy is, or whether there is one?

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13 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

I was going to write that the Constitution, like all laws, is a set of ideas, written in very specific language. One copy, a million copies, they’re all equal. There is no need for an official copy.

But then I thought of the President signing a bill into law. Or the strategic arms treaties signed by the US and USSR in the 70s and 80s. The end of World War II aboard the USS Missouri. Where are those documents? How many copies do they make?

laureth's avatar

I interpreted the question to mean something like a Constitutional equivalent of the Official Meter. However, while I wasn’t able to find the answer, I bet the Archive is a good place to start.

ETpro's avatar

I saw it in Washington DC on a tour. If I recall correctly, it was at the National Archive. There is an online copy here.

jaytkay's avatar

@ETpro But are all 27 amendments on the National Archives display copy?

fundevogel's avatar

I would guess it’s at the Library of Congress. That place has all kinds of crazy stuff.

ETpro's avatar

@jaytkay Here is a link to the National Archives’ online display and there is a link there letting you learn how to go see it for yourself. Such a treasured document is obviously not going to be neglected in some dusty, forgotten corner of a warehouse.

jaytkay's avatar

@ETpro The copy displayed in the Archives is the Constitution as originally written. It doesn’t include the Bill of Rights or the other 17 amendments.

Obviously, that building could disappear, and we would still have a Constitution. It’s not the Ark of the Covenant or a holy relic.

But the question of how the actual paper signed by the President is “added” to the Constitution is interesting.

ETpro's avatar

@jaytkay The Bill of Rights and Amendments are viewable here. I emailed the webmaster and asked where the originals of each document are archived. I’m unsure whether it is the National Archives or the Library of Congress. I’ll post the answer if I hear back from them.

Certainly the Constitution and its attachments are no Ark of the Covenant. But it is just as clear that we go to great lengths to preserve them intact for future generation, even though the content is copied in many places and woud survive the destruction of the paper it is written on.

jaytkay's avatar

The Bill of Rights and Amendments are viewable here.

Where? I don’t find any images of original documents at that link.

ETpro's avatar

@jaytkay Sorry, I should have been more specific. The link is just to a site that repeats the text, not to images of original documents. I am hoping their webmaster can tell me where the originals are kept, and that the organization holding them may have them online.

jaytkay's avatar

@ETpro It will be interesting to hear the Archives response.

Thinking about the text – the fact that once the Constitution was published, the original documents became unimportant – that’s very “open source”.

A pretty neat illustration of the power of the printing press and the importance of the first amendment, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

ETpro's avatar

@jaytkay I love that one. The words bring tears to my eyes.

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