National Archives - Information about the Constitution of the United States
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The origins of Constitution Day - What is it?
Important dates, components to the Constitution, and activities
The U.S. Constitution has 4,400 words. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.
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 ($726 today).
Since 1952, the Constitution has been on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. 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.
Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document.
James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," was the first to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, bearing the blueprint for the new Constitution.
Of the forty-two delegates who attended most of the meetings, thirty-nine actually signed the Constitution. Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign due in part due to the lack of a bill of rights.
When it came time for the states to ratify the Constitution, the lack of any bill of rights was the primary sticking point.
Patrick Henry was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but declined, because he "smelt a rat."
Because of his poor health, Benjamin Franklin needed help to sign the Constitution. As he did so, tears streamed down his face.
The oldest person to sign the Constitution was Benjamin Franklin (81). The youngest was Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey (26).
When the Constitution was signed, the United States' population was 4 million. It is now more than 309 million. Philadelphia was the nation's largest city, with 40,000 inhabitants.
A proclamation by President George Washington and a congressional resolution established the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. The reason for the holiday was to give "thanks" for the new Constitution.
The first time the formal term "The United States of America" was used was in the Declaration of Independence.
It took one hundred days to actually "frame" the Constitution.
George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
James Madison was the only delegate to attend every meeting. He took detailed notes of the various discussions and debates that took place during the convention. The journal that he kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after he died. It (along with other papers) was purchased by the government in 1837 at a price of $30,000 (that would be $629,000 today). The journal was published in 1840.
Although Benjamin Franklin's mind remained active, his body was deteriorating. He was in constant pain because of gout and having a stone in his bladder, and he could barely walk. He would enter the convention hall in a sedan chair carried by four prisoners from the Walnut Street jail in Philadelphia.
On March 24, 1788, a popular election was held in Rhode Island to determine the ratification status of the new Constitution. The vote was 237 in favor and 2,945 opposed!
Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at the age of 84. The 20,000 mourners at his funeral on April 21, 1790, constituted the largest public gathering up to that time.
The word "democracy" does not appear once in the Constitution.
There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops!
John Adams referred to the Constitution as "the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen" and George Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette that "It (the Constitution) appears to me, then, little short of a miracle."
The Pennsylvania State House (where the Constitutional Convention took place) was where George Washington was appointed the commander of the Continental Army in 1775 and where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. It was also where the Articles of Confederation were adopted as our first constitution in 1781.
The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments.
The Constitution was ratified by specially elected conventions beginning in December 1787. The order in which the thirteen states accepted the new constitution was Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
From 1804 to 1865 there were no amendments added to the Constitution until the end of the Civil War when the Thirteenth amendment was added that abolished slavery. This was the longest period in American history in which there were no changes to our Constitution.
As evidence of its continued flexibility, the Constitution has only been changed seventeen times since 1791!
James Madison of Virginia was responsible for proposing the resolution to create the various Cabinet positions within the Executive Branch of our government and twelve amendments to the Constitution of which ten became the Bill of Rights.
Benjamin Franklin made a suggestion at the Constitutional Convention that the sessions be opened with a prayer. The delegates refused to accept the motion stating that there was not enough money to hire a chaplain.
Of the fifty-five delegates who attended the convention 34 were lawyers, 8 had signed the Declaration of Independence, and almost half were Revolutionary War veterans. The remaining members were planters, educators, ministers, physicians, financiers, judges and merchants. About a quarter of them were large land owners and all of them held some type of public office (39 were former Congressmen and 8 were present or past governors).
The only other language used in various parts of the Constitution is Latin.
Four of the signers of the Constitution were born in Ireland.