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Stealing Independence

Huzzah! The time of British oppression is finally over!Three Dog, after completion of the quest.

Stealing Independence is a quest in Fallout 3.

Abraham Washington in Rivet City wants the Lone Wanderer to retrieve the Declaration of Independence for him to display in the Capitol Preservation Society.

Quick walkthrough

Side Quest: Stealing Independence
Speak to Abraham Washington at the Capitol Preservation Society in Rivet City.
Locate the National Archives and enter.
Defend the Rotunda.
Ignore the Rotunda.
Partner with Sydney.
Ignore Sydney.
Kill Sydney.
Reward: Sydney's 10mm "Ultra" SMG.
Use the Rotunda elevator to reach the sub-basement.
Fight through the National Archives to get to the sub-basement.
Choose a path to fight through the Archives passageways.
Optional: Search side chambers.
Shut down turrets using Repair.
Reward: Magna Carta and Bill of Rights.
Quick route: Repair the utility gate using Science.
Slower route: Lockpick the metal door to bypass security.
Slowest route: Fight through the Archives passages.
Locate Button Gwinnett's chamber and speak to him.
Use Speech to convince Gwinnett that the Lone Wanderer is Thomas Jefferson (neutral Karma).
Kill Button Gwinnett (negative Karma).
Agree to help Gwinnett (positive Karma).
Locate the ink container in the Arlington Library.
Tell Gwinnett to continue the good fight (positive Karma).
Tell Gwinnett to self-destruct (negative Karma).
Reward: Declaration of Independence and Button's Wig.
Return to Abraham Washington in Rivet City.
Reward: 400 Caps and Schematics - Railway Rifle.

Detailed walkthrough

Acquiring the quest

Talk to Abraham Washington in Rivet City or go directly to the National Archives and enter the rotunda on the first floor.

Encountering Sydney

Upon entering the rotunda, the Lone Wanderer will find Sydney, another treasure hunter sent by Abraham Washington to get the Declaration of Independence but never returned.

If one decides to help her by fending off the Super Mutants, they can take her on as a companion through to the end of the quest. However, if one declines to take her on as a companion, Sydney might appear later in a random encounter, "Seeking revenge for declining her offer."

Sydney can be completely avoided. By entering the backdoor of the National Archives, one can bypass the rotunda and retrieve the Declaration of Independence. Upon returning to the rotunda, Sydney will not be there. The super mutant attack in the rotunda is still triggered, however. Alternatively, if one goes to the eastern door in the room with the terminals (before the rotunda), the super mutant attack will not occur.

Sydney's shortcut

If one decides to take Sydney with them, she will tell them that she has hacked a secret elevator that will get them very close to the Declaration's location. Interacting with the nearby terminal will trigger a secret elevator to appear. This will lead into the secure wing of the National Archives. Head north and one will have to fight/sneak past a number of robots. In the first room is a broken door that can be repaired with 67 Science. In this room is the power generator for the turrets guarding the various documents (Sydney will point this out if she is a companion), but it can only be activated with 60 Repair. There are several Hard- and Very Hard-locked doors and significant gas leaks.

Encountering Button Gwinnett

Regardless of which path one chooses, there will be a number of level-dependent robots, including Protectrons, Mister Gutsies, Sentry Bots, and the occasional Robobrain, as well as Mark IV Turrets below that are hostile. The Lone Wanderer will eventually be approached by a robot that has been programmed as the second signer of the Declaration, Button Gwinnett. At this point, one can either:

  • Kill Gwinnett and have to fight off many more robots.
  • Agree to help Gwinnett by forging the Declaration of Independence with supplies from Arlington Library (aka "trick the Redcoats"). Once the Lone Wanderer gives the ink container to Gwinnett, he will create a forgery for them to give to Abraham Washington. If one tells him to continue to guard the document or do whatever he likes, he will remain active and they will gain Karma. If one gives him the order to self-destruct, they will lose Karma. One can still take the genuine Declaration and give both to Abraham.
  • Convince Gwinnett that they are Thomas Jefferson through a Speech check, which will allow them to simply grab the Declaration and leave without having to do anything more. However, he will deactivate himself, after which one can kill him without Karma loss or causing the turrets to turn hostile.
  • Order Gwinnett to shut down if they have the Robotics Expert perk.


At this point, the Lone Wanderer either has the real Declaration of Independence, a copy of it, or both.

To get out, one can:

  • Go back the way they came, perhaps using the secret elevator again.
  • Go through the utility door to the left of Button (which leads to a room with Protectron containers) and then to the main floor.
  • Fight their way back up the stairs. If Button Gwinnett is killed, there will be a number of robots trying to stop the Lone Wanderer in the basement. Or the door to the west of the room leads to an elevator exit, once the door is unlocked.
    • On their way up, they can find the Bill of Rights on one of the floors, in the fenced off area with a safe inside (next to a Lying, Congressional Style). One can also find the Magna Carta directly across from where they found the Bill of Rights. The fenced-off area is protected by two Average-locked doors, and two Mark IV turrets. Both can be sold to Abraham Washington (100 caps for the Bill of Rights, 75 for the Magna Carta, more with a Speech check).

Sydney's quest

After the delivery of the Declaration of Independence to Abraham Washington, ask Sydney, "So, whatever happened to your father?" Previously, this dialogue path was closed as she did not trust the Lone Wanderer. Now, she mentions her father and that he used to call her "Little Moonbeam." If one has found her father's body and holotape in the Statesman Hotel, the option to tell her about her father's message will be available. She will reward the Lone Wanderer with Sydney's 10mm "Ultra" SMG.


Quest stages

20 Retrieve the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.
30 Defend the Rotunda.
50 (Optional) Bring Button Gwinnett the ink.
60Quest finishedReturn to Abraham Washington in Rivet City.


  • When Sydney is a companion, one can ask her at any time whether she has been hurt. If she says yes, they have the further option of giving her a stimpak, which she will use immediately.
  • If the Lone Wanderer has 7 Intelligence, they can say that Abraham is looking for the Declaration of Independence. With 8 Intelligence, however, the option is not offered.
  • Once one has passed the Speech check, Button will also blow himself up if they call him a disgrace to Congress.
  • If one chooses to retrieve the ink from Arlington Library, after retrieving the forged copy from Button, they will gain access to the safes and the shortcut back to the ground floor of the National Archives.
    • This shortcut room contains the pods for the robots, including an inactive "Thomas Jefferson" robot and a backup robot that can have Jefferson's programming transferred to it. As mentioned in some of the computer bulletins, someone has hacked the voice of the robot, replacing it with a radio tuned in to GNR.
    • The broadcast is due to a pre-War prank mentioned on some of the terminals in the building, which included swapping the voice software of the Protectron with a radio uplink and frequency scanning software. The recall signal does not function, but activating the Shutdown causes it to explode.
  • Pick up the real Declaration only if one plans on delivering the real Declaration to Abraham Washington, because he will take either document (real or fake). If one gives Abraham Washington the fake copy, then return for the real thing, they will not be able to drop it (still a quest item). After this, the ink bottle becomes droppable. On the GOTY edition, it cannot be dropped, and it will be stuck with both the ink and the real copy of the Declaration, if one chooses to take both.
    • See bugs for more information.
  • Completing this quest by returning any form of the Declaration to Abraham Washington will make Three Dog of Galaxy News Radio make mention of the Lone Wanderer in the news ("Huzzah! The time of British oppression is over!").
  • Remember to speak with Sydney after delivering the Declaration—she does not remain in Rivet City after the quest and will head to Underworld via Anacostia Crossing Station, just north and to the right of Rivet City when exiting. She will be just inside the gate of the station.
  • If one passes a Speech check from Abraham Washington, he will tell them that he already sent a wastelander such as them to recover the Declaration. He continues to say that sacrifices must be made to preserve history.
  • One can get an extra 100 caps for the Bill of Rights and 75 caps for the Magna Carta. They are in two different safes along the long way in the sub-level. See the loot section above.
  • All three documents—the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta—show up on the Capitol Preservation Society wall of documents in golden frames after being sold to Abraham Washington.
  • If one selects the "This is getting ridiculous" dialogue option, they can exit the strongroom and then re-enter to continue speaking with Button.
  • Early in development, the player character could additionally find the Emancipation Proclamation, Monroe Doctrine, U.S. Declaration of War on China and the U.S. Declaration of War on Germany in the Archives. In the final game, the only remnants of the documents are entries on the Capital Preservation Society terminal detailing what they contain and Washington's opinions on them.
  • Even with the Robotics Expert perk, there is no way to order or trick Button Gwinnett to his alcove in the robotic bay for repair or transfer to backup protection unit.
  • If one uses the same glitch used to obtain Colonel Autumn's 10mm Pistol and coat, and with 100 lockpick, they can steal the Declaration of Independence with no Karma loss, and without Button becoming hostile.
  • The Bill of Rights is marked as a quest item and cannot be dropped. The Magna Carta, however, can be dropped at any time.
  • If one convinces Button to give them the Declaration, real or fake, hostilities with all robots and turrets in the National Archives will cease. However, Sydney will still attack the turrets on sight.


  • PCPC For various reasons, usually related to Sydney's death (or resurrection by use of console commands), there will be no option to give Abraham Washington the Declaration of Independence. It is possible to complete this quest with Sydney alive or dead by entering a console command setstage 14ea2 100; however, the Declaration of Independence will remain in the player character's inventory — it cannot be sold, dropped or removed in any other way, as it is a quest item, though quest items do not actually weigh anything (despite what their weight actually reads). One can, however, remove it by using the console command player.removeitem 3a7f 1, or use the command setquestobject 3a7f 0 to remove the "quest item" flag. If instead, one has the Forged Declaration, use player.removeitem 6b192 1 or setquestobject 6b192 0 correspondingly. If one has the ink container stuck in their inventory, use the corresponding console commands to remove it from the inventory (player.removeitem 3aa2 1) or remove the "quest item" flag (setquestobject 3aa2 0).
  • PCPC One of the super mutants triggered by defending the rotunda causes glitches. It hangs out near the front door to the Archives. It is invisible and it cannot be harmed with guns, but it can be harmed with grenades or mines. It cannot harm the player character either. Companions may successfully kill it, but immediately upon its death, the game freezes. Leaving it alive keeps Sydney uncommunicative — she will just keep telling the Lone Wanderer that the muties are coming — so she cannot be taken along on the quest. It is possible to bypass this glitch and continue in the mission by entering the console command setstage 14ea2 50.