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Historic Senate ledger nearly rubbished | (UPI) -- Tucked away in an underground storage room, the U.S. Senate's original accounting book nearly ended up in the trash last week.

"It came just a whisker from workmen whose only orders were to clear out the room," Richard A. Baker, the Senate historian, told The New York Times in Monday's edition.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," Baker said. "I have been here 28 years and have never seen a find like this."

The ledger carries entries by such luminaries of the American Revolution as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

At auction, such autographs fetch thousands of dollars, and the ledger is filled with such signatures.

"I do certify that the sums affixed to the names of the within mentioned senators are due to them as the law provides," said the Times, quoting an early entry by Adams, the nation's first vice president and its second president, after George Washington.

Senators got $6 a day and received a travel allowance amounting to 30 cents per mile to and from home.

This dollar-by-dollar accounting of the costs of democracy is a reminder of how small an operation the federal government used to be, historian Peter Drummey told the Times.

"These things are not going to change the understanding of the early Republic," said Drummey, who is librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. "But they put a human face on things that can sometimes be seen entirely as matters of debate over the Constitution."

The original ledger and some 59 other ledgers, spanning the 1800s to the 1950s, had lain forgotten until cleaning work was about to get under way last Tuesday. The dusty tomes drew someone's eye, and congressional curators were called in.

Baker, the Senate historian, has plans for the Senate's first ledger. "It will be a prime exhibit item for the visitor's center, no question about it," he told the Times.

A three-level underground visitor center being built at the Capitol is intended to provide more exhibition space and greater security.

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