How good is your eyesight?
Even with 20-20 vision it’s tough to make out the words of the three most important documents in
American gov ernmental history at the National Archives (7th Street and Constitutional Avenue Nw on the Mall; 202-357-5450; archives.gov).
That’s because they were written more than two centuries ago!
We’re talking about the Decla ration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights-the original documents that set up the US government as a democracy in 1774. If you are visiting on July 4, check out the Patriots in colonial costumes reading the Declaration on the steps.
If you were a member of the Second Continental Con gress in 1776, you were a rebel and considered a traitor by the king of England. You knew that a reward had been posted for the capture of certain prominent rebel leaders and signing your name to the Declaration meant that you pledged your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to the cause of freedom.
Have you seen the movie National Treasure? It suggests that something is written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
You can’t see the back but it says “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776” in reverse. Experts say it is actually ink from the top of the front side that has seeped through the parchment to the back.
A lot of people come to the National Archives to do re search. There are tours you can reserve to see how research ers preserve historic documents. You’ll fi nd records here of our country’s civil, military, and diplomatic activities.
Admission is free, but there can be a long wait. To make an advance reservation, visit recreation.gov.