5 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Constitution
Happy Constitution Day! On Tuesday, September 17, 1787, after spending a sweltering summer indoors debating the foundations of a new government, the 39 delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution of the United States of America.
Here are a few things you may not know about one of the most important documents in American Law:
1. Neither Thomas Jefferson Nor John Adams Signed the Constitution
Jefferson missed the 1787 Constitutional Convention because he was in Paris acting as an envoy for the United States, while Adams was in London performing his duties as minister to Great Britain.
2. The Constitution Does Not Declare the United States Government a “Democracy”
The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the text of the Constitution, as many of the Founders thought pure democracies were doomed to fail (check out James Madison’s view on the subject in the Federalist Papers). Technically, the United States is a republic.
3. The First Amendment was originally…Third
Today, we think of the First Amendment as the first and foremost set of rights we have in the United States: Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and more. It’s easy to assume they come first because they are the most important. However, in the original draft of the Bill of Rights this set of freedoms was third, behind one amendment on the size of Congress and another regarding congressional salaries.
4. Rhode Island Wanted Nothing to Do with It
It just goes to show, you can’t please everyone. Rhode Island never sent any delegates to the Constitutional Convention and was the last of the thirteen original states to ratify the finished document. And that was after 11 referendums.
5. It begins and ends with “people”
The first words of the Constitution (“We the People”) and the last words of the Tenth Amendment (“to the people”) serve as a reminder that the power and legitimacy in our nation’s government lies with its citizenry.
- The U.S. Constitution (FindLaw’s Cases & Codes)
- What Is Constitutional Law? (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Civil Rights v. Civil Liberties (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
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