Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do you know what day it is?

If you have a school kid who talks to you about his/her day, you probably
do, or you will by the end of the day.

In 2004, the US Congress passed a
law which declared September 17 a day for school students learn about and
government officials to remember the importance of this important document.

day was chosen because it was on this day in 1787 that the Constitution was
signed. Most people my age or older can quote the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America.

Of course
what was signed in 1787 did not include the Bill of Rights. Several delegates to
the convention refused to sign the newly drafted constitution because it did not
include a bill of rights. Bills of rights were typically parts of the
constitutions of the several states of the day (and today), placed there to
ensure that certain rights were recognized by the government. Most of the
delegates did not feel such a bill was necessary, and other may have been on the
fence but were weary from the months of negotiations.
The lack of a bill of
rights was one of the main arguments that Anti-Federalists used to try
to convince the public to reject the Constitution. But the need for change was
all too evident, and it was not rejected. However, some of the states sent
suggestions for amendments to the Constitution to add an enumeration of certain
rights. The ratification messages of the states included many varying
suggestions, which the very first Congress took under consideration in its very
first session.
Representative James Madison, who was so instrumental in the
creation of the Constitution in the first place, drafted a bill of rights.
Though he originally opposed the idea, by the time he ran for a seat in the
House, he used the creation of a bill as part of his campaign. He introduced the bill into the
, which debated it at length and approved 17 articles of amendment. The
Senate took up the bill and reduced the number to 12, by combining some and
rejecting others. The House accepted the Senate's changes, voting on September
24th and 25th, 1789; twelve articles of amendment were sent to the states for
The first two articles were not accepted by enough states, but
the last ten were. We know them today as Amendments 1 through 10. The second
article was eventually ratified as the 27th Amendment. The first ten amendments,
collectively known as the Bill
of Rights
, were ratified on December 15, 1791 (811 days).

Here is
the text of that original senate drafted document, with 12 amendments. What do
you think about the two that weren't ratified?

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their
adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent
misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and
clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public
confidence in the
Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its
by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America, in
Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses
concurring, that the following
Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of
the several States as amendments to
the Constitution of the United States,
all, or any of which articles, when
ratified by three fourths of the said
Legislatures, to be valid to all intents
and purposes, as part of the said
Constitution; viz.
Articles in addition to,
and Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by
Congress and
ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the
Article of the original Constitution.

Article the first ... After the
first enumeration required by the first
article of the Constitution, there
shall be one Representative for every thirty
thousand, until the number
shall amount to one hundred, after which the
proportion shall be so
regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than
one hundred
Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty
persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two
after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that
shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one
Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Article the second
... No law, varying the compensation for the services of
the Senators and
Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of
shall have intervened.

Article the third ... Congress shall make no law
respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right
of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of

Article the fourth ... A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the
security of a free State, the right of the
people to keep and bear Arms, shall
not be infringed.

Article the
fifth ... No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in
any house,
without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner
to be
prescribed by law.

Article the sixth ... The right of the people to be
secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and
seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,
but upon probable
cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article the seventh ... No person shall be held to answer for a capital,
otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a
Grand Jury,
except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the
Militia, when in
actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall
any person be subject
for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of
life or limb; nor shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness
against himself, nor be deprived
of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law; nor shall private
property be taken for public use, without
just compensation.

Article the eighth ... In all criminal prosecutions,
the accused shall
enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an
impartial jury of the State
and district wherein the crime shall have been
committed, which district shall
have been previously ascertained by law, and
to be informed of the nature and
cause of the accusation; to be confronted
with the witnesses against him; to
have compulsory process for obtaining
witnesses in his favor, and to have the
Assistance of Counsel for his

Article the ninth ... In Suits at common law, where the value
controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall
preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in
Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common

Article the tenth ... Excessive bail shall not be required, nor
fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article the eleventh ... The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain
rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the

Article the twelfth ... The powers not delegated to the
United States by
the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are
reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people.

Augustus Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House
John Adams, Vice-President of the
United States and President of the
Attest John Beckley, Clerk of
the House of Representatives
Sam. A. Otis Secretary of the Senate

This information and so much more is available at

What interesting facts do you know about our founding documents?

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