St. Andrews Celebrating Constitution Day—Sept. 17, 2019

16 September 2019, 10:09 am Written by 
Published in Latest News

Appropriately, every Sept. 17 brings us to a national recognition of Constitution Day (once known as Citizenship Day) to celebrate the signing of the United States Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.  Four years later, Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights and the first 10 Amendments were ratified (now 27).

The Constitution includes the Preamble, seven Articles with multiple sections, 4,400 words in total.  It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.  Since its creation, over 100 countries around the world have used it as a model for their own.

Since 1952, the Constitution has been on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.  Currently, all four pages are displayed behind protective glass framed with titanium.  To preserve the parchment's quality, the cases contain argon gas and are kept at 67 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 40 percent.

James Madison proposed the U.S. Bill of Rights.  It largely responded to the Constitution's influential opponents, including prominent Founding Fathers, who argued that the Constitution should not be ratified because it failed to protect the basic principles of human liberty.  The U.S. Bill of Rights was influenced by George Mason's 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, works of the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights, and earlier English political documents such as the Magna Carta (1215).

Two additional articles were proposed to the States;  only the final 10 articles were ratified quickly and correspond to the First through Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.  The first Article, dealing with the number and apportionment of U.S. Representatives, never became part of the Constitution.  The second Article, limiting the ability of Congress to increase the salaries of its members, was ratified two centuries later as the 27th Amendment.

Though they are incorporated into the document known as the "Bill of Rights," neither article establishes a right as that term is used today.  For that reason, and also because the term had been applied to the first 10 Amendments long before the 27th Amendment was ratified, the term "Bill of Rights" in modern U.S. usage means only the 10 Amendments ratified in 1791.

One of the original 14 copies of the U.S. Bill of Rights is on public display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

 

A few facts about the U.S. Constitution

  • Of the spelling errors in the Constitution, "Pensylvania" above the signers' names is probably the most glaring.
  • Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either.
  • The Constitution was "penned" by Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk, for $30 (about $830 today).
  • The Constitution does not set forth requirements for the right to vote. As a result, at the outset of the Union, only male property-owners could vote. African Americans were not considered citizens, and women were excluded from the electoral process.  Native Americans were not given the right to vote until 1924.
  • James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," was one of the first to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. He arrived in early May, bearing the blueprint for the new Constitution.

 

The 39 Signers and state each came from: