Constitution Week is celebrated each year Sept. 17-23. This year our Constitution is 233 years old. It has been in effect longer than any other and is the shortest in the world.
The Constitution is based on the profound ideas of the Declaration of Independence: ”All Men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; That among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The rules in effect during the Revolutionary War gave rights to the states but provided no power for a central government. No state felt any responsibility for the debt that the U.S. had to repay. Many men who had helped finance the war became paupers and some were jailed. George Washington referred to Congress as “a half-starved, limping government, always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step.” The drafting of the U.S. Constitution was necessary to create an effective national government.
Representatives of the 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia in the spring of 1787 to attend the Constitutional Convention. They continued to meet throughout the summer in a building with the windows nailed shut to ensure privacy. Discussions and controversies were numerous, but on Sept 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed by 39 of the representatives. Some would not sign without the addition of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The bold words, “We the people,” proclaimed to the world that the new country would be built upon the foundation of individual freedom and responsibility.
James Madison is called the “Father of the Constitution” because of his efforts to organize the Constitutional Convention, as well as his leadership in keeping the project moving. When the convention was over, someone asked Benjamin Franklin, at 88 the oldest representative, “What do we have Mr. Franklin?” He replied, “A Constitution, Madam, if you can keep it!”
America is a Constitutional Democratic Republic, which relies upon elected representatives and not mob rule like a pure democracy. Is our system perfect? No, but with the ability to make changes to the Constitution by adding amendments, it has proven to be a more just and long-lasting tool of governance.
Teach your children about the history of this country. Teach them about the Constitution and how our government works.
The Apache Trail Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, has been serving the Apache Junction and Mesa areas since 2004. Our chapter is dedicated to historic preservation, education and patriotism.
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world’s largest and most active service organizations.
DAR members are committed to volunteer service having served more than 12.5 million hours in communities throughout the world during the past three years. To learn more about the work of today’s DAR, visit www.DAR.org or connect with DAR on social media at facebook.com/TodaysDAR, twitter.com/TodaysDAR and youtube.com/TodaysDAR.
Karen Barks and Tracy Callahan are Constitution Week Committee co-chairs in the Apache Trail Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.