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Historic Annapolis and Maryland State Archives to Present Founding Documents from the Collection of David M. Rubenstein

| August 11, 2021, 10:09 AM

Historic Annapolis, in partnership with philanthropist and Maryland native David M. Rubenstein and the Maryland State Archives, will present an exhibition of four of the most important documents in early American history. Entitled Founding Freedoms: The Essential American Documents, the exhibition will be on display and accessible to the public in the rotunda of the Maryland State House from September 10 to October 11, 2021. The State House is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and entry is free of charge.

Founding Freedoms will consist of important printings of the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and Bill of Rights, all from Mr. Rubenstein’s collection, presented in a historical context alongside the State House’s permanent display of George Washington’s 1783 Resignation Speech. Together they tell the story of the formation of the United States from the patriotic ideals of the Thirteen Colonies in the Revolutionary War to the democratic principles of the Founding Generation in their creation of our government.

The Arc of Central Maryland

Examples of the Declaration of Independence include a rare William Stone engraving of the original document in the National Archives. Famous for being the version of the Declaration seen in textbooks instead of the original, this copy was presented by then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to Maryland politician Thomas Emory in 1824. Also included in the exhibition are the first newspaper printing of the Constitution and an early newspaper printing of the Bill of Rights, prior to its ratification, when it included 12 amendments.

Founding Freedoms also tells the story of those who printed our country’s most cherished documents and their reasons for creating them. Whereas the printers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights were sharing the news of the day, two of the most notable printings of the Declaration of Independence were done to satisfy our country’s burgeoning first wave of patriotism. Appearing in the exhibition are the engraved Declarations by John Binns and Benjamin Tyler—and the colorful story of their race to be the first to print the document.

Mr. Rubenstein’s documents, chosen in collaboration with the Maryland State Archives, will stand with and thematically complement the original, handwritten 1783 speech by George Washington, in which he resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Considered one of Washington’s most important precedent-setting decisions, its central place in Founding Freedoms signifies its real and symbolic role in the transfer of power from the British King, not to an American military leader, but to a democratically elected Congress.

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In displaying these documents adjacent to the resignation speech, visitors will have the rare opportunity to see, all at once, the four most important founding documents in American history. “Together, the documents bring to life a pivotal moment in history and provide a tangible connection to the efforts of our nation’s founders to secure rights and freedoms in the earliest moments of American democracy,” says Elaine Rice Bachmann, Maryland State Archivist and Secretary of the State House Trust.

“Seeing historic documents in person brings them alive in ways that images online or in a book cannot,” says David M. Rubenstein. “I am hopeful the Founding Freedomsexhibit will attract a range of generations and prompt a fresh appreciation for our great American experiment.”

“These documents symbolize the birth and development of a new nation and will draw attention to the crucial role Annapolis and Maryland played in the nation’s founding. We appreciate the support of the State House Trust in making these documents accessible to the public, and thank Mr. Rubenstein for bringing them to Annapolis so we can highlight the vital role of Maryland’s citizens, past and present, in guaranteeing that these rights are preserved for all today,” says Robert C. Clark, President and CEO of Historic Annapolis.

Founding Freedoms is the first of three exhibitions coming to Annapolis this fall, to include Historic Annapolis’s permanent exhibit, Annapolis: An American Story, at the Historic Annapolis Museum, 99 Main Street, and We Hold These Truths: Maryland’s Signers and the Declaration of Independence, at the William Paca House and Garden, 186 Prince George Street.

Category: Events, LIFE IN THE AREA

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