“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.” ~The Preamble to the Constitution
In May of 1787, fifty-five delegates from thirteen states gathered for the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. America had just won its independence from England. The states were working together under a loose agreement called the Articles of Confederation, but the Founding Fathers decided to create a Constitution that would be the basis of our federal government.
George Washington was chosen as president of the Constitutional Convention. Among the men who wrote the Constitution were Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
On September 17, 1787, the delegates signed the Constitution of the United States of America. On July 2, 1788, Congress announced the United States Constitution had been ratified by the required nine states and that a committee had been appointed to make preparations for the new American government.
As originally intended, the Constitution was designed to restrain and control government, not citizens. The first ten amendments to the Constitution were adopted in 1791 to further public confidence in the government and prevent abuse of its powers. Called the Bill of Rights, they establish the basic freedoms of Americans and protect the rights of individuals. For example, the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, speech, and the press. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to own and bear firearms.
The Constitution is the highest law of the land. The framers specifically stated in the body of the Constitution that its provisions supersede any other law. No act of government, no law passed by Congress, and no law in any city, state, or town can conflict with the Constitution. To protect the people’s right to self-government, changes in the Constitution are limited by a strict set of guidelines. The U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.
Experts consider the Constitution of the United States to be one of the most remarkable documents in history. Written over 200 years ago, it is the oldest working Constitution in the world, still standing as a model of cooperation and compromise. In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, TIME magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”
Our Constitution incorporates the combined wisdom of some of the brightest minds in American history, who not only had a great love of their country but also had a beautiful command of the English language. And yet today, sadly, the Constitution seems to be in danger. Some people claim the Constitution is outdated.
In a television interview during a visit to Egypt in January of this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court shocked a lot of people by saying, “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the European Convention on Human Rights.
It’s time for citizens of all ages to stand up for the principles upon which our country was founded. Especially in light of current events, carefully consider the following quotes made by some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to America today:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~John Adams
“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” ~Thomas Jefferson
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.” ~Samuel Adams
“Miracles do not cluster. Hold on to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands—what has happened once in six thousand years may never happen again. Hold on to your Constitution, for if the American Constitution shall fail there will be anarchy throughout the world.” ~Daniel Webster
“The Constitution is NOT an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.” ~Patrick Henry
“Study the constitution! Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in the legislatures, and enforced by the courts of justice.” ~Abraham Lincoln
See Also: “Dangerous Servant and Fearful Master,” by Shawn Mitchell.
Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution (Free course for high school and up!)
Constitutional Convention (Recommended: “A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation”)
Memorize The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution (Printable PDF; 4 pages total)