RALEIGH — The 10th anniversary of the recovery of North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights is being celebrated on Monday, March 18, in Raleigh. A procession led by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan W. Kluttz will travel from the legislative building to the State Capitol at 12:30 p.m. The fragile document will be carried to the State Capitol for a rare public display from 1:30-5:30 p.m. A State Capitol Police escort, ROTC color guard, bagpiper, and school children will join the procession.
In 2003, efforts were re-energized to reclaim the document that had been removed from the State Capitol in 1865 by a Union soldier. It is one of 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights President George Washington dispatched to the states for ratification. North Carolina had insisted on the inclusion of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution before it would join the United States of America.
The document changed ownership a number of times, and was offered for sale back to North Carolina in 1925 and 1995. In 1925, N.C. Historical Commission Secretary Robert B. House declared, “So long as it remains away from the official custody of North Carolina, it will serve as a memorial of individual theft.” That stand on principal remained until the document was returned.
An antiques dealer acquired the document and sought to sell it to the newly constructed Constitution Center in Pennsylvania. North Carolina was contacted and law enforcement officials agreed to stage a sting operation to return to North Carolina its copy of the Bill of Rights. The FBI led the operation, which was conducted in 2003. After a lengthy court battle, in April 2005 the document was returned to the state. Final resolution of challenges on ownership came in March 2008. The document is housed in the vault of the State Archives with other precious historical documents.
A 5:30 p.m. public program will feature Attorney General Roy Cooper and Justice Paul Newby making presentations about the Bill of Rights in the House Chamber of the State Capitol. A special session of the General Assembly will convene at the Capitol at 6:45 p.m.