George Washington's Personal Copy of the Constitution on Display

MOUNT VERNON, Va., Sept. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, Mount Vernon unveils George Washington's annotated copy of the Acts of Congress on September 17, at 12 p.m.  This rare volume garnered world-wide attention this summer when it was offered for sale and then broke world records for an American historical document at auction. The remarkably well-preserved book includes Washington's copy of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other legislation passed by the first session of Congress, complete with his personal annotations. This significant piece of American history will be on view in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center through the national observance of George Washington's birthday on February 18, 2013.

"Returning Washington's copy of the Constitution home to Mount Vernon is a very momentous occasion," said Mrs. Ann Bookout, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association's regent. "The Acts of Congress is one of the most important pieces of personal and intellectual property that ever graced Washington's private book shelves."

Accompanying the Acts of Congress through October 29, on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration, is George Washington's first draft of the Constitution.  This draft of the constitution displays Washington's hand-written notes recording the Convention's handling of each proposed clause. Exhibited together for the first time ever, the two publications shown in this gallery offer an unprecedented view of history in the making, through the mind and actions of America's first president.

The most significant features of this book are Washington's personal notes, penciled in the margins. Washington only rarely inserted notes or markings in his books, choosing instead to make notes on separate sheets of loose-leaf paper. All of his notes in this volume appear alongside the text of the Constitution, where he drew neat brackets to highlight passages of particular interest. In Article Two, spelling out the powers and duties of the president, he added the words "President," "Powers," and "Required." He also marked passages in Article One concerning the president's power to veto Congressional legislation – a critical element of the Constitution's system of checks and balances on governmental power.

This custom-bound copy of the Acts is embossed in gilt letters reading "President of the United States." Washington's bold signature appears on the right corner of the title page. He also pasted his engraved armorial bookplate to the inside front cover. The bookplate features the Washington family coat of arms and the motto "exitus acta probat," which translates to "the result is the test of the actions."

One of the most historic publications owned by Washington, the book testifies to his crucial role in the implementation and interpretation of the Constitution and the establishment of the new American government. The first Congress ordered the printing of 600 copies of the Acts, which were distributed to federal and state government officials. Chief Justice John Jay and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson owned volumes similar to Washington's copy.

Washington's Acts of Congress will be a centerpiece of The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. The presidential library will serve as a center for scholarly research, a site for leadership training programs, and a place for safeguarding original Washington volumes. A private, not-for-profit organization, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association is constructing the Library and building its slate of innovative programs without any government funding. To contribute to the efforts to restore George Washington's library and for more information, please visit

Events, programs, and activities are subject to change.

Public Information: 703-780-2000; 703-799-8697 (TDD);

Since 1860, over 80 million visitors have made George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens the most popular historic home in America.  Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington's place in history as "First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen."  Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, America's oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853.  A picturesque drive to the southern end of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon is located just 16 miles from the nation's capital. 

Hours of operation: April-August, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March, September, October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November – February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Regular admission rates: adults, $15.00; senior citizens, $14.00; children age 6-11, when accompanied by an adult, $7.00; and children under age 5, FREE.  Admission fees, restaurant and retail proceeds, along with private donations, support the operation and restoration of Mount Vernon.

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SOURCE Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens


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