A few years ago, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie brought a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence to Minnesota. He’s now tapped the same rare-documents dealer to bring a copy of the U.S. Constitution circa 1787, a draft of the Bill of Rights circa 1789, and original copies of the two Minnesota state constitutions to the Minnesota History Center.
The exhibit opens April 3 and will be on display, appropriately enough, through July 4. The Constitution copy is one of just eight still in existence, a version printed for the public. The Bill of Rights draft was printed in limited quantities by Thomas Greenleaf for the exclusive use of Congress, a draft that contained 17 amendments not yet whittled down through debate to the 12 sent on for approval by the states, much less the 10 that were in fact ratified.
As for the Minnesota Constitutions, we needed one to become a state. We got two—one from each party. Then, as now, they had trouble agreeing and, even after a supercommittee of sorts chose language designed to appeal to both parties, they refused to sign a document containing signatures of their political rivals. Thus, two constitutions. They’re nearly identical, though some 300 differences in punctuation, grammar, and wording can be found. Of course, those were ironed out later.
The exhibit is included with regular admission ($11) to the Minnesota History Center. Visit minnesotahistorycenter.org for details.