While decorating my BBQ table, I remember the men who worked for months (years, if you add Benjamin Franklin’s contributions) to give us the Constitution. This living document continues to rule our lives today. The Constitution is a hotly debated record, especially when interpreted loosely or too narrowly. Either way, the laws established in the parchment have guided our nation and set the guardrails that affirm our laws. Like it or not, it is a brilliant work that has stood the test of time.
This month, in honor of the holiday, I’d like to discuss the little-known facts about our Constitution.
- Although the State Representatives wrote many drafts on hemp, the official Constitution exists on parchment. Sorry to all those hemp growers out there.
- Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were not at the official signing of the Constitution. Adams, the ambassador to Britain, and Jefferson, the ambassador to France, were out of the country visiting their counterparts in Europe.
- Someone asked Benjamin Franklin whether he established a democracy or a republic. He said, “A republic if you can keep it.” Although the people elect the officials in government, the laws established by the Constitution provide checks and balances to those voted into office. (I’m trying not to get political here, so let’s leave it there).
- Amendments to the Constitution are repealed by adding another amendment.
- Only six men’s signatures appear on the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: George Read, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, and James Wilson.
- Rhode Island refused to take part in the creation of the Constitution. The people feared the Federal government would rule them. They held off the document’s ratification until 1790 and passed it by two votes.
- The phrase “The Separation of Church and State” does not appear in the Constitution. The phrasing came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote to the Baptist Association –
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
- The Constitution does not require the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be an elected member of the House. However, a nonmember has never served as Speaker. Interesting.
- The Constitution does not give you the right to vote but ensures you are not denied that right. The denial is justified as long as the refusal to accept one’s ballot does not clash with the Constitution. For example, the government of New York prohibits felons from voting while incarcerated or until their parole is complete.
- The Speaker of the House is the second in line for the Presidency after the Vice President.
I hate to leave that on an awkward note, but there you have it—ten things you may or may not have known about our great document.
Did any of those surprise you? Please email me. I’d like to know.
So, enjoy your friends, loved ones, and your freedom today!
Until next month, I remain your friend,