Washington, D.C. – Nestled within the National Archives lies a piece of history often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts – the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights have stolen the spotlight for centuries, the 14th Amendment is now taking center stage as the Supreme Court gears up to deliberate over its implications for the 2024 presidential election.
This Civil War-era provision, intricately penned with iron gall ink on parchment, is the centerpiece of a crucial debate over whether it bars former President Donald Trump from appearing on Colorado’s presidential ballot. The outcome of this deliberation could potentially upend the approaching presidential election. But despite its significance, the 14th Amendment hasn’t received the Hollywood treatment like the National Treasure, until now.
The journey to unearth this historical document was not an easy one. The National Archives, primarily known for its public viewing area, tucked away the 14th Amendment in their research and preservation section after recent renovations. Here, archivists carefully preserve and maintain documents essential to the nation’s history. The preciousness of these records is underscored by the fact that the National Archives was one of the first buildings in Washington, D.C., to be equipped with air conditioning.
Upon gaining access to the viewing room, an intriguing combination of red leather and carefully preserved parchment welcomed visitors. Things took an unexpected turn when a senior conservator, Morgan Browning, guided our exploration. With meticulous care, he handled the pages, delicately explaining the crafting process behind this ancient artifact and the 14th Amendment’s sensitivity to light and humidity.
As the Supreme Court’s scrutiny of this document looms over proceedings, Browning carefully returned the parchment to its archival box, emphasizing the thrill of being in the presence of such a cherished piece of history.
In the heart of the nation’s capital, the 14th Amendment continues to carry the weight of centuries-old debates while silently shaping its role in the ongoing political landscape.