Washington's copy of Constitution goes on display

Associated Press Published: September 17, 2012
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MOUNT VERNON, Va. (AP) — After buying it at auction for nearly $10 million, George Washington's Mount Vernon estate is displaying the Founding Father's annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association paid $9.8 million this summer to obtain the book, which has "President of the United States" on the cover and has handwritten notes and brackets by Washington around key passages outlining the president's responsibilities.

Mount Vernon put the book on display Monday in its museum on the estate grounds.

The notes themselves are not especially profound. Washington bracketed sections of the Constitution that pertained directly to his powers as president, including his veto power and his duties as commander in chief and his responsibility for negotiating treaties and appointing ambassadors.

He wrote the word "required" next to the text in article II stating that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union."

While some Founding Fathers like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were inveterate scribblers, Washington rarely wrote in books except to place his signature on the cover page, said Carol Borchert Cadou, Mount Vernon's senior curator and vice president for collections.

Washington was a man of few words — his second inaugural address remains the shortest of all presidents. The notations show that Washington looked closely to the Constitution as his guide for assuming his duties, she said.