Constitution Day, September 17: Facts About the U.S. Constitution

Every year, on September 17, Constitution Day is celebrated. Many Americans no longer observe this holiday, or mark it. Indeed, Independence Day, celebrated with fireworks and fanfare on July 4th, receives much more attention.

However, it is worth noting the place that the U.S. Constitution holds in the hearts of many Americans, and it is a good idea to read this document regularly. I like to read it every few months (it really isn’t that long, and it doesn’t take much time), but you might consider reading it at least once a year. Constitution Day is as good a day as any.

U.S. Constitution Facts

As part of an acknowledgement of Constitution Day, here are a few facts about the U.S. Constitution:

  • The founders mainly responsible for drafting the Constitution were James Madison and Gouverneur Morris.
  • Rhode Island did not send representatives to the Constitutional Convention. The state was the last of the 13 original states to ratify the Constitution.
  • The Constitution was made to be a “living document,” meaning the authors knew that changes would need to be made. This fact, however, is balanced by a process that makes it difficult to amend the Constitution willy-nilly. It takes 3/4 of the state legislatures (or 3/4 of ratifying conventions in states) to approve an amendment.
  • It’s not all that easy to simply propose a Constitutional amendment. It takes 2/3 of those in both houses of Congress to vote to propose, or it takes 2/3 of the state legislatures to ask for Congress to call a national convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment.
  • There are currently 27 amendments to the Constitution, and each is considered as part of the highest law of the land.
  • The first 10 amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. There was some discussion of which right should be listed first, but our current First Amendment was given the position of primacy. As a result, the First Amendment is still one of the most revered and respected of the amendments — and one that many consider inviolate, although the Supreme Court has ruled in many cases that it’s not absolute.
  • The founding fathers often disagreed on how the new government should be set up, and there were many debates about what should be included in the Constitution, as well as concerns about how to balance federal power and state power, and the best way to ensure that too much power couldn’t be concentrated into too few hands.
  • The Constitution is the shortest written constitution of any major government in the world.
  • Thomas Jefferson did not actually sign the Constitution. He wasn’t present at the Constitutional Convention because he was overseas, serving as the minister to France. John Adams, another of the founding fathers, was serving as minister to Great Britain, so he wasn’t around to sign either.
  • There are errors, including of spelling, in the Constitution, since it was hand-written by a clerk (Jacob Shallus), who was paid $30 and given two days to write the document.

If you are an American, it makes sense to read the Constitution. When was the last time you read this document?

Sources:

http://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-constitutional-convention

http://americanhistory.about.com/od/usconstitution/p/constfastfacts.htm


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