James Madison's Montpelier

Press Release

"This Just In: The Constitution as Breaking News"



A new exhibit featuring rare, early published versions of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights has just opened at Montpelier, the lifelong home of James Madison. Titled "This Just In: The Constitution as Breaking News", the exhibit showcases some of the first public releases of the work of James Madison – Father of the Constitution and chief congressional sponsor of the Bill of Rights. 

In the late 1700s, citizens learned of "breaking news" through special issues of newspapers, known at the time as "broadsides" because the publications were printed on the broad – or wide – side of a sheet of paper.  

Two late 18th-century broadsides that were among the first publications to report on the proposed U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the Bill of Rights in 1789 are highlights of Montpelier’s new exhibit. These rare, original documents are on loan to Montpelier from Stanley L. Klos of Estoric, a historic documents company in Carnegie, Pennsylvania:

September 1787 Printing of the Constitution

From May to September 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in secret at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to develop a new constitution for the United States. James Madison played a key leadership role in these deliberations. On September 17, the convention gave final approval to a proposed Constitution and adjourned. A Philadelphia printer, Dunlap & Claypoole, was contracted to print 500 copies of the proposed Constitution for delivery to the Confederation Congress assembled in New York City. It was a historic "rush" order – Constitutional Convention Secretary William Jackson was taking a morning stage coach to New York the next day.

Jackson and his copies arrived in New York City on September 20, but the "secret" story apparently went public before they arrived. Robert Smith, another printer in Philadelphia, issued a hastily typeset broadside dated September 17, with spelling and punctuation errors, titled "New Plan for The Federal Government" and including the text of the proposed new Constitution.

A copy of Smith’s 1787 broadside is included in the new Montpelier exhibit. Mr. Klos has written that "a strong case can be made that Smith, most likely, trumped all competitors as The 1st Public Printing of the US Constitution by circulating his special printing of ‘We the people ...’ on the 18th of September."

Bill of Rights

One of the first orders of business of the new Congress established by the Constitution was consideration of a Bill of Rights – specific guarantees of liberties for American citizens. On May 4, 1789, Madison, then a U.S. Representative from Virginia, told his colleagues that he would turn his attention to amendments to the Constitution as soon as possible. On June 8, Madison introduced a series of proposed amendments, which were debated by the House on June 8 and July 21.

On August 12, 1789, the Pennsylvania Gazette published the "PROPOSED Amendments of the Constitution of the United States" – a version of the 17 amendments then under consideration by the House. This broadside represents a very early public report on what would become the Bill of Rights.

The proposed amendments were approved by the House of Representatives on August 24 and by the U.S. Senate on September 9; the package of 12 amendments was submitted to the states for consideration on September 25. Ten of those amendments – the Bill of Rights – were ratified by the states and adopted, effective December 15, 1791.
A rare copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette broadside is included in the Montpelier exhibit.
These documents, as well as a February 12, 1798 letter from George Washington, are on display in the Montpelier mansion. The exhibit is included with regular admission to Montpelier. The exhibit is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through the end of October, and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in November and December. "This Just In" is scheduled to close on December 31.

Montpelier is a National Trust Historic Site, operated by the Montpelier Foundation, an independent non-profit. Additional information about Montpelier, including a calendar of special events, is available on the web at www.montpelier.org.

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NOTE TO THE PRESS: Digital images of Montpelier and the "This Just In" exhibit are available. For more information, please contact Randy Huwa at huwa@montpelier.org or at  540.672.2728 ext. 110.


Stan Klos lecturing at the Republican National Convention's PoliticalFest 2000 Rebels With A Vision Exhibit  in Philadelphia's Convention Hall 

Primary Source exhibits are available for display in your community. The costs range from $1,000 to $25,000 depending on length of time on loan and the rarity of artifacts chosen. 


Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos hosting the Louisiana Primary Source Exhibit at the State Capitol Building for the 2012 Bicentennial Celebration.

2000 Louisiana Avenue Venue 15696
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70115

504-264-1787 | naomi@historic.us

727-771-1776 | stan@historic.us


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