Pew President Testifies to Senate on Founding Fathers Project

  • February 06, 2008

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The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced that President and CEO Rebecca Rimel will testify on Thursday, February 7, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Founding Fathers Project. The Project was established more than a half century ago to publish the complete, annotated writings of the country's founding fathers—including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin—and to make these historical treasures available to the public. The hearing, entitled “The Founding Fathers' Papers: Ensuring Public Access to our National Treasures,” will be held at 10 a.m. in Room 226 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.

Read Rebecca Rimel's testimony. 

Efforts to compile, edit and publicize the diaries, letters, manuscripts, essays and other writings of the Founding Fathers date back to 1943. In 1952, the federal government formally launched the Founding Fathers Project by funding definitive editions of the writings of several of the most influential framers of the Constitution. Today, the collections are in various phases of completion, and it is expected that the entire Project will not be finished for decades.

Ms. Rimel will urge Congress to refocus on this project, which has stalled because of insufficient funding and staff, and ensure that the wisdom of our founders is available to all Americans and people around the world.

“These writings add a great deal to our understanding about the men who shaped our nation, yet they remain out of reach to most Americans,” says Ms. Rimel. “In spite of the millions of dollars and more than 50 years invested in this work, only a handful of libraries have complete sets of any of the editions, and the general public cannot easily locate and read our Founders' words. We need Congress's assistance in accelerating and increasing public access of these documents, as well as bringing greater accountability to the Project.” 

At the invitation of Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ms. Rimel will discuss Pew's longstanding investment in the Founding Fathers Papers. Since 1981, Pew has contributed more than $7.5 million to advance the scholarship and availability of these important documents. The funds include $1.5 million to edit all five projects and begin work on electronic versions of manuscripts and computer-generated indexes; $250,000 to create CD-ROM versions of the published volumes; $3.26 million to advance work on the Franklin and Jefferson papers, including the establishment of the Jefferson Retirement Series at Monticello; $50,000 to support of the first-ever public conference of the papers' editors; $2 million for work on the Thomas Jefferson collection at Princeton University; a $500,000 matching-funds grant to secure the $2 million total that Yale University needed to complete the Benjamin Franklin papers; and $189,000 in support of the effort to bring greater accountability and increased federal funding to the Project.

Additional testimony will be presented by noted historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough; Dr. Stanley N. Katz, Chairman of the Papers of the Founding Fathers and Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University; Dr. Deanna B. Marcum, Associate Librarian of Congress; Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States; and Dr. Ralph Ketcham, Professor of History at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

For more information on Pew's work to preserve our nation's historic treasures and additional detail on the Founding Fathers editing projects taking place at various universities and institutions, please visit www.pewtrusts.org.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. We partner with a diverse range of donors, public and private organizations and concerned citizens who share our commitment to fact-based solutions and goal-driven investments to improve society.

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