Speak Your Piece: The Bill of Wrongs

An early draft of the Bill of Rights gets written in stone, literally, in two North Carolina public monuments. The result is a confusing mixture of 12 proposed amendments that enshrine both the hallmarks of American liberties and historical footnotes. But don't fear. The public discussion about the error is protected by the Third … errr ….First Amendment.


National Archive website, and you’ll see that the National Archives and Records Administration prefers to display the 1789 resolution rather than the final Bill of Rights. Of the 12 amendments proposed in the 1789 resolution, two did not pass. (The failed amendments dealt with proposals for the number of constituents per representative and congressional compensation.) The remaining 10 amendments were approved by the states and became enshrined as the Bill of Rights – and have been taught as such ever since to American school children.

But in North Carolina, a two-time candidate for Congress didn’t pick up on this nuance. So two towns now have hundreds of pounds monuments dedicated a first draft of the Bill of Rights. They at least entail a hunt-and-peck to find the familiar phrases.   

‘Maximus Boomus’

Vance Patterson of Morganton, North Carolina, is a 64-year-old co-owner of a North Carolina fireworks-show company, Patterson Pyrotechnics, with the slogan Maximus Boomus.   He also is the owner of firms in South Carolina that make barbecue equipment and T-shirts and import coffee beans from Brazil.

With a "Tea Party Cheer" on the Internet, Patterson lost congressional races for the Republican nomination for the N.C. 10th U.S. House seat in 2010 and, after redistricting, lost for the party’s nomination for the N.C. 11th U.S. House seat in 2012.

He told the Cherokee County board of commissioners in February that he and his wife Mary Jo decided to donate the monuments because this is “a place he frequented and loved while campaigning for Congress,” according to the approved minutes. 

 Patterson told the city of Morganton (where he has an identical “Charters of Freedom” display dedicated July 2), that he got the idea to donate while attending a prayer breakfast. This spurred in him and his wife fond memories of their having visited the documents at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. once he had decided to run for Congress.