This year marks the 224th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution.
Take a moment today to ponder the founding principles of our nation and the ways in which our nation was built on freedom and democracy. We should ask ourselves if the nation we live in today is one that our founders would have been proud of.
After the Revolutionary War, having recently won independence, our nation was young and eager to grow.
However, it was a far cry from the United States we see today. Rather, our nation consisted of 13 uniquely individual colonies with their own sets of laws, agendas, and even currencies. States enforced these laws, collected taxes, and regulated trade on their own terms.
So while the United States did exist prior to the ratification of the Constitution, it was a nation held together by the feeble threads of the Articles of Confederation and an often ineffectual national government.
Leading statesmen, such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, spearheaded a movement to strengthen the Articles of Confederation; little did they know, their idea would be the impetus for one of the greatest governing documents ever to exist -our own Constitution.
The most detailed account of the meetings of the Constitutional Convention includes all discussions and is attributed to James Madison's meticulous note taking. The journal that he kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after his death. It was later purchased by the government in 1837 at a price of $30,000 and published in 1840.
Madison's journal makes for interesting reading click here to view it online.
Incidentally, Madison was the only delegate to attend every meeting.
On May 25, 1787, the Convention formally opened in Independence Hall. Twelve states had responded to the call for the Convention. Rhode Island had refused to send delegates because it did not want a national government interfering with Rhode Island's affairs. Of the fifty-five delegates who attended the convention, 34 were lawyers, eight were signers of the Declaration of Independence and almost half were Revolutionary War veterans.
The remaining members were planters, educators, ministers, physicians, financiers, judges and merchants.
Representatives crafted a document that was the result of dozens of compromises and shaped by the failures of the Articles of Confederation, as well as the failures of all well-known European governments of the time. The delegates were involved in debate from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. six days a week with only a 10 day break during the duration of the convention. After 4 months, their work was finally done.
One of our most studied founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, or, Dr. Franklin as they called him, is often portrayed as one of the key deist figures in the framing of our nation. It is therefore surprising to learn that it was actually Franklin who called for the inclusion of a daily chaplain during the Constitutional Convention.
Franklin called for God's intervention in their hearts and minds as they dealt with the weighty, heated nature of the task at hand. Unfortunately, the request for a daily chaplain was voted down due to a shortage in their budget (yes, even our founding father's dealt with budget issues). In a future newsletter, I will look at some of the examples of biblical principles woven into our nation's highest law.
The Constitution established not merely a league of states, but a government that exercised its limited authority directly over all citizens. The Constitution protects the rights of every individual and defines the powers delegated to the national government.
In a mere 4,400 words, the U.S. Constitution documented the design of the greatest nation on the face of the earth. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.
The oldest person to sign the Constitution was Benjamin Franklin (81 years old). Because of his poor health, Benjamin Franklin required assistance to sign the Constitution. The youngest signer was Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey (26 years old). George Washington and James Madison were the only Presidents to sign the Constitution.
On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify on January 1, 1788. On March 24, 1788, Rhode Island held a popular referendum on the Constitution, and it failed by a vote of 237 to 2708.
By June 21st of that year, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify and the Constitution met the minimum number of states required ratify under Article VII. Ultimately, all thirteen original states ratified the Constitution--even Rhode Island finally ratified it on May 29, 1790.
The new government went into effect on March 4, 1789. On November 26 of that year, by congressional resolution and proclamation by President George Washington, our first official Thanksgiving Day was celebrated to give "thanks" for our new Constitution.
On September 25, 1789, Congress passed the first ten Amendments as a group known as our Bill of Rights. By December 15, 1791, three-fourths of the states had ratified the Bill of Rights. Incidentally, Georgia did not ratify the Bill of Rights until March 18, 1939---almost 148 years later.
While many arguments envelop our nation today on the issues of immigration and even the languages spoken in our classrooms, perhaps it's important to note that the only other language used in various parts of the Constitution is Latin.
Currently, all four hand-written pages are displayed at the National Archives behind protective glass framed with titanium. To maintain the parchment's quality, the cases contain an inert gas, argon, and are kept at 67 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 40 percent to ensure that future generations are able to view our Constitution--or you can simply download a copy to your smart-phone with the Pocket Constitution App.
However you choose to view the Constitution, take a moment on National Constitution Day to remind yourself of the liberties and freedoms afforded to us by our founding fathers. The challenge to preserve the freedom and liberty our founders envisioned for us is huge.