New York history on display

Gazette photo by Jack Savidge

For one week only, New Yorkers have the chance to see a handwritten draft of the state Constitution, believed to be written by John Jay himself, in honor of the document’s 242nd anniversary.

The three-page document is on display Monday, April 15 through Saturday, April 20 from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm on the 11th floor of the State Cultural Education Center, at 222 Madison Avenue, Albany.

“It has been on display throughout the years, on the anniversary of its making. This Saturday marks the 242nd anniversary, we can’t have it out all the time because it’s over 200 years old,” said Antonia Giuliano of the New York State Museum.

The first constitution for New York State was adopted in Kingston New York on April 20, 1777, written and approved by a group of 14 delegates called the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York. It was written primarily by John Jay, with the aid of Gouverneur Morris and Robert R. Livingston.

The handwritten draft contains numerous strikeouts, additions and corrections. The complete, official text was published as the Constitution of the State of New York by Samuel Loudon, State Printer, at Fishkill in 1777.

A final copy of the 1777 New York State Constitution does not exist; it is possible that the complete document was destroyed after it was sent to the printer in Fishkill.

Following the adoption of the state Constitution, the first elections were held in June 1777 and the elected officials took office in September of that year. George Clinton was elected the first governor, John Jay was appointed the first chief justice of the New York State Supreme Court, and Robert R. Livingston was appointed the chancellor.

“We want people to better understand New York’s history,” Giuliano said. “This document founded New York and we want people to take advantage and see it in person.”