August 24, 1814: Preserving the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Monthly bill of Rights from the Flames

Skilled football Hall of Famer Steve Largent appreciated to tell the tale of his very first actual visit to Washington, D.C. He experienced been to RFK Stadium continuously when his Seattle Seahawks played our Redskins. As he rode in a cab to the Capitol in 1995, the newly elected Congressman from Oklahoma (R) marveled at all the enormous govt structures he observed on the two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. “I surprise how several folks function in those properties,” he mused. “Oh,” his cabby explained, “about 50 percent of them.”

Govt employees in Washington had loads of function to do on this day two hundred a long time back. In the President’s House, Very first Girl Dolley Madison was supervising the emergency evacuation. Throughout the War of 1812, most of our victories in opposition to Britain experienced come at sea, in ship-to-ship encounters or else on the Great Lakes. America’s army had regularly unsuccessful to conquer Britain’s northern dominions in Canada, but experienced managed to outrage the Canadians by burning their provincial cash of York, Ontario.

By 1814, it was payback time. A strong British squadron sailed into Chesapeake Bay. Landing a sturdy contingent in Maryland, the redcoats marched overland. U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong was complacent about the threat to Washington, D.C. They are headed for Baltimore, he frequently advised subordinates. Or maybe Annapolis.

President James Madison felt it his duty to be part of the troops defending the nation’s money. The five-foot-4-inch, 63-year previous commander-in-chief calmly mounted his horse and rode off.

Meanwhile, Charles Carroll of Maryland, a famed Signer of the Declaration and a leading Catholic layman, stopped by the Government Mansion to alert Mrs. Madison of the British progress. She was all action that day as the enemy defeated condition militia forces at battles in Bladensburg and Upper Marlboro, Maryland. American troops were attacked with Congreve rockets. These freshly developed weapons were not so lethal in them selves, and relatively inaccurate, but they served to worry the Yankees’ horses (and, reality be informed, not a handful of inexperienced American militiamen.)

Dolley Madison experienced bravely remained behind to just take care of final-moment information. She went from window to window with a spyglass, searching for the redcoats’ approach. She was determined to rescue Gilbert Stuart’s renowned total-size portrait of President George Washington. The canvas painting experienced to be reduce out of its frame.

At the State Division, a clerk was not one of these “half of them” — authorities employees who labored. On this fateful day, this clerk was all duty and all efficiency. As the Countrywide Archives site relates the story:

Secretary of Point out James Monroe rode out to observe the landing of British forces alongside the Patuxent River in Maryland. A information from Monroe alerted State Division officials, like a clerk named Stephen Pleasonton, of the imminent threat to the funds city and, also, to the government’s official documents. Pleasonton “proceeded to buy coarse linen, and cause it to be manufactured into bags of convenient dimensions, in which the gentlemen of the office” packed the precious books and documents like the Declaration. A cartload of information was then taken up the Potomac River to an unused gristmill belonging to Edgar Patterson. Below the Declaration and the other information remained, most likely right away. On August 24, even though the White House and other govt properties ended up burning, the Declaration was stored 35 miles absent at Leesburg. The Declaration remained there at a non-public home right up until the British experienced withdrawn their troops from Washington and their fleet from the Chesapeake Bay.

People in america extended remembered the British burning of our White Residence, our Capitol, and, shamefully, our Library of Congress. They held off burning the Patent Building only when a courageous American, William Thornton persuaded them that it contained personal house, a priceless file of innovations to advantage all mankind.

The mayors of Georgetown and Alexandria, Virginia, pursued the British Admiral for two days. When the harassed Royal Navy leader impatiently granted them an viewers, they told him they desired to surrender their metropolitan areas to him. “I’m not even going there,” was the exasperated reaction of the male who burned Washington. Correct ample. He was headed to Baltimore. Georgetown and Alexandria are well-known liberal bastions (ready then as now to surrender even before they are attacked.)

Stephen Pleasonton, nonetheless, is a great example of a federal government worker with a substantial perception of obligation and the keenness and foresight to realize the inestimable value of the data that have been offered to him for safekeeping. We can all be thankful for the watchfulness and energy of Stephen Pleasonton, the dutiful federal government clerk. Now wouldn’t it have be fantastic if the IRS’s Lois Lerner had been as mindful to protect crucial federal government paperwork as Stephen Pleasonton was? – Most current entries

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