Celebrate Constitution DAy

With the final stroke of his pen, on September 17, 1787, the final delegate set his signature on the parchment paper. It was done. A new structure of government was born. The long and hard work, however, was not over. The thirteen states still needed to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

Until the Constitutional Convention, the thirteen states were working under the weak and ineffective Articles of Confederation. Many of the state leaders recognized the need for a stronger government, and they agreed to meet in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles. Only twelve states sent delegates because Rhode Island was afraid of losing its individual rights as a state.

The convention delegates immediately decided not to revise the Articles; rather, they would write a new Constitution. In this decision, the delegates exceeded their designated powers, and many of them did not agree with the final draft. George Mason, of Virginia, wrote a list of objections to the drafted Constitution, including that it did not contain a Bill of Rights, it gave some of the branches of government too much power, and it did not adequately protect the rights of the individual states.

On the last day of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin encouraged all the delegates to sign the completed Constitution. He said, “I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve… (But) the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others… In these sentiments…I agree with this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us…(and) I doubt…whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution.”

After four months of work, only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Convention signed the Constitution. It required nine states to ratify the Constitution. By the end of 1787, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey ratified. However, the debate heated up between those who favored a strong central government and those who wanted more independence for the states. In 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, and this new, complex government went into effect. George Washington was unanimously chosen as President.

As citizens of the United States, we now recognize September 17th of each year as “Citizenship Day” and the week of September 17th through 23rd of each year as “Constitution Week”. It’s a great time to share this part of American history with your kids. Teach them about the background of the Constitution. Discuss and debate the strengths and flaws. Take time to read it. Books and videos are available as resources.

There is some wonderful information available on the Internet as well. Two great websites to start with are the National Constitution Center (www.constitutioncenter.org) and the National Center for Constitutional Studies (www.nccs.net). Maybe someday you will even make a trip to the National Archives building in Washington, DC to see the original Constitution.

     Posted on September 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm | No comment

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