June 22, 2012
Christie's to Auction George Washington's Annotated Copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights Today
The estimated value of George Washington's personal copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. The copy includes Washington's marginalia highlighting the duties and powers of the president. Quoting from Christie's entry:
It is striking that Washington, the owner of an extensive library at Mount Vernon, added marginalia in only this and one other volume (a copy of James Madison, View of the Conduct of the Executive. Here, in this volume, he has added brackets and marginal notes in light but readable pencil. All appear in the text of the Constitution itself and all relate to the duties and prerogatives of the chief executive in the new government.
-- At Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 (on page vi), Washington has written "President" in the margin and has added a long bracket alongside the passage detailing the process by which legislation originates in Congress and is then subject to the approval or veto of the president: "Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law."
In a further section of Section 7, Clause 2 (on page vii), Washington has written "President" twice, next to a description of two additional methods by which laws may be enacted or rejected: "But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law."
In addition, at Clause 3, President Washington brackets another block of text: "Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill."
-- At Article II, Section 2 (on page ix) Washington has written "President" and "Powers" in the margin, and has bracketed Clauses 1, 2 and 3, each stipulating critical responsibilities of the chief executive. First, Washington brackets Clause 1: "the President shall be Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in cases of Impeachment."
Clause 2, dealing with treaties and their ratification, and presidential powers of appointment is also bracketed by Washington: "He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors and other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law; but the Congress may by Law vest the appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments."
Additionally, Clause 3 is bracketed: "The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session."
At Article II, Section 3 (page ix), Washington has written "required" and bracketed text stipulating further duties of the chief executive. "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and speedy; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the Officers of the United States."