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Delaware's Bill of Rights Comes Home

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, it is with tremendous pride that I rise today to commemorate that after 213 years, Delaware's original copy of Bill of Rights ratified in 1790, is returning home.

This is a story steeped in history, mixed with some modern-day political negotiations-worth celebrating.

While Delaware holds the distinction as the first State to ratify the Constitution, on December 7, 1787, it was the sixth State to ratify the Bill of Rights-on January 28, 1790. The two signors of this historic document were Jehu Davis and George Mitchell. And they were quite efficient. Instead of drafting a separate letter, as most States did, to notify Congress of Delaware's ratification of the Bill of Rights, they simply penned their signatures on the Bill of Rights document and returned it whole cloth to Congress. Thus, Delaware had no copy of what Davis and Mitchell signed.

The National Archives, to its immense credit, conserved Delaware's original copy of the Bill of Rights in pristine condition for more than two centuries. However, two years ago Delaware's Public Archives, State House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, and the Delaware General Assembly asked the congressional delegation to help negotiate the return of our Bill of Rights document. We all agreed that this historic document should be displayed for all to see in Delaware, not stored in the basement of the National Archives in Washington, DC.

The National Archives is, justifiably, quite protective of its documents. Suffice to say that it took ten months of negotiations, meetings, letters and conference calls to come to terms on an agreement that returns this document to Delaware, while retaining the National Archives legal and preservation rights to it.

Starting this December 7, on my State's 216th birthday, its original Bill of Rights will be on display for all to see. It will be on view at our new, state-of-the-art Public Archives Building in Dover, DE. And that is exactly where this document belongs-on public display where school students and adults alike can appreciate its historic significance.

We should all be proud of this accomplishment because it's part of our history. The Bill of Rights is a symbol of who we are 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.

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