N.C.'s original copy of Bill of Rights home again
This month, the long, strange trip of North Carolina's original copy of the Bill of Rights, valued at up to $40 million, came full circle when it was carried by federal marshals back into the same Greek-revival Capitol from which it was taken nearly 140 years ago. George Washington sent it to North Carolina in 1789 as an inducement to the hesitant colony to join a new union, and it was snatched away in the chaos following a tumultuous Civil War to restore that same union.
In the years that followed, North Carolina's missing copy of the original Bill of Rights passed from a Yankee soldier's rucksack to an Indianapolis family to a Connecticut antique dealer. It hung in a bank building, a library, even a nursing home, and was secreted around the country in apparent attempts to sell it to the highest bidder.
North Carolina and Rhode Island refused to ratify the Constitution until certain individual rights were guaranteed. What Washington sent them by courier was a list of 12, 10 of which would become known as the Bill of Rights. (Notably, the rights to free speech, religion and the press that we know as the First Amendment were No. 3 on the original list.) It was signed by John Adams, the first vice president.
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