No place like home
It’s over, finally.
North Carolina’s lengthy legal battle over its original copy of the Bill of Rights has ended.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper made that announcement Monday after Superior Court Judge Henry Hight signed an order declaring the historic document belongs to North Carolina. Cooper, in a statement, said that Hight’s decision ends all remaining claims to the copy.
That copy is more than just a document that contains the Bill of Rights.
The legal fight over the copy came down to another right — the right of ownership. The judge’s ruling means the copy of the Bill of Rights is owned by the state, in other words, the people of North Carolina. It’s best for the state to own the copy instead of a private owner.
The copy made a stop at the university as part of the North Carolina Tour of the Bill of Rights.
The copy has an interesting history. State officials have possessed the faded document since 2005, two years after the parchment was recovered by federal authorities in a sting operation, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The copy of the document listing rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens was made in 1789. During the Civil War, the copy was taken by a Union soldier who sold it to someone in Ohio in 1866. That person’s descendants sold the copy to businessman Robert Matthews and Connecticut antiques dealer Wayne Pratt in 2000 for $200,000. In March 2003, an FBI agent posing as a museum buyer at a meeting in Philadelphia pretended to purchase the copy from the two men for $5 million.
In September 2003, Pratt gave up his claim to the copy. Matthews did not. Three years later, Matthews’ attorney said his client claimed the state has illegally taken the copy.
Matthews has said in the past the document is worth $30 million on the private market.
The copy lists the 12 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution presented to the states in 1789. Eventually, the amendments were reduced to 10.
The copy is more valuable than that. It’s value transcends a monetary amount. It’s value is in meaning, not dollars and cents.