American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address
American Treasures is an example of narrative non-fiction at its best: thorough research underpins an engaging—even gripping—story that captures the reader, who races along to discover what happens next. It makes no difference that we already know the outcome. The book is framed by the efforts of Franklin Roosevelt and his Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, to relocate many priceless historical documents into safer locations in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The most precious of these, noted in the book’s subtitle, find their way to the newly opened Fort Knox. Others find temporary homes in the storage rooms of a number of inland universities.
While the efforts throughout U.S. history to protect our irreplaceable founding documents are fascinating, the primary engine that drives the book is Puleo’s retelling of the nation’s founding, the sheer improbability of which is hard to overstate.
Indeed, the story of the Constitution’s formulation never gets old, and bears recounting. Puleo deconstructs the preamble, written by Gouverneur Morris (probably the most-quoted, least-known Founding Father), to illustrate its brilliance. It’s hard to imagine that there is any better-known phrase written in U.S. history than “We the People,” and with good reason.