How a Lowly Clerk Saved Almost All of U.S. History from Destruction


When Secretary of State James Monroe received information that the British were sailing to attack Washington D.C. in 1814, he panicked for multiple reasons. First, they had little time to act and virtually no defenses but the citizens themselves to fend off attackers. Secondly, he realized he was solely responsible for the protection of all the United States’ documents and he happened to be away from Washington. At this time, the serving Secretary of State was responsible for keeping track and care of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s journals, and all kinds of papers dealing with the foundation of the country. Monroe desperately sent a letter to President Madison to warn him of the attack, and another letter to the State Department, the location of these papers. In a postscript to his department, Monroe wrote “You had better remove the records”. By the time the messages…

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