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Tag: constitutional convention

Constitution 225: Fractions and ratifications


Joint Resolution Proposing the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution (ARC 596379)

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

On Monday, September 10, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was fixated on fractions.

After four months of debate and compromise, the delegates knew they were nearing a final document. With the end in sight, they turned their attention to the future. There were two central questions they needed to answer.

First, how would the nation throw the switch to shut down the old government and start up the new government? Getting one-half of the states to agree to be governed by the Constitution seemed a little light, but three-fourths seemed a little heavy. The delegates finally settled on two-thirds; the Constitution would become effective once it was ratified by 9 of the 13 states.

Second, how could the new government develop with the nation as both grew and changed? The delegates agreed to include a mechanism by which future statesmen could improve or correct the Constitution. Proposals to amend the Constitution can be made by both two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives, or two-thirds of the state legislatures can propose an amendment. [ Read all ]

Constitution 225: Friday Facts

Poster celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Constitution in 1937 (ARC 515119 )

Constitution Day is September 17. Here are 17 Constitution facts to impress your friends and family. (Need more than 17? Our Constitution web page has all you need to know!)

SEVENTEEN: The Constitution has 4,543 words, including the signatures. It takes about 30 minutes to read.

SIXTEEN: The Constitution was drafted in fewer than 100 working days.

FIFTEEN: Each of the four parchment sheets of the Constitution measures 28 3/4 inches by 23 5/8 inches.

FOURTEEN: George Washington was chosen unanimously to preside over the Constitutional Convention.

THIRTEEN: Madison kept a journal during the Constitutional Convention. Congress appropriated $30,000 to buy it (and other papers) in 1837.

TWELVE: Those who favored ratifying the Constitution were called Federalists; those who opposed were Antifederalists.

ELEVEN: Two of the 12 amendments submitted as the Bill of Rights were rejected.

TEN: There is no mention of education in the Constitution; education is reserved for the states.

NINE: These cities have been U.S. capitals: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, York, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, New York, and finally Washington, DC.

EIGHT: The book that had the greatest influence on the Constitutional Convention was Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, which first appeared in 1748.

SEVEN: Montesquieu borrowed much of his doctrine from Englishman John Locke, with whose writings the delegates were … [ Read all ]

Constitution 225: There’s a “fifth” page the public has never seen


The Constitution Resolution, sometimes called the "fifth page" of the Constitution, will be on public display for the first time on September 14-19, 2012, in Washington, DC.

Millions of people have passed through the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, to see the original parchments that are our Charters of Freedom. They pause to look at the faded writing on the Declaration of Independence, the bold opening words “We the People” on the Constitution, and the straightforward enumeration of our Bill of Rights.

This year, for the first time, visitors will be able to see what is sometimes referred to as the “fifth page” of the Constitution—the Resolutions of Transmittal to the Continental Congress. A special display for the 225th anniversary of the Constitution in September, will feature this document. “It’s up there with the Constitution in terms of value,” says curator Alice Kamps.

The resolutions spell out how the new Constitution would be adopted by the United States and how the new government would be put into effect.

Instead of seeking the consent of Congress and the 13 state legislatures, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention proposed that the Constitution “be laid before the United States in Congress assembled” and then submitted  to  special ratifying conventions elected by the people in each of the states. Once nine states had ratified … [ Read all ]

Constitution 225: Blueprint for the Electoral College

Commission of David Brearly to be an elector for the state of New Jersey for the purpose of choosing a President and Vice President of the United States, 01/07/1789 (ARC 306228)

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

By the end of August, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were tired. They had been convening and debating for the entire summer, and they sensed they were nearing a finished product.

Throughout August, much of the debate had revolved around the report delivered by the Committee of Detail early in the month. The delegates had discussed at great length that committee’s report, but there were several issues on which they suspended debate before reaching a decision. On August 31, those postponed matters were referred to another committee comprising one delegate from each state and chaired by David Brearly of New Jersey.

This “Committee of eleven,” as Madison referred to it in his journal notes, considered each of the postponed matters and reported back to the Convention during the first week of September with proposals. Included in the committee’s proposals were providing Congress the authority to collect taxes, assigning the Vice President to preside over the Senate, and specifying

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Constitution 225: No crown for you!

Royal Crown of the Hungarian Royal Holy Crown Jewels, recovered by the U.S. Army during World War II when this photo was taken on August 3, 1945.

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

Have you ever dreamed of being addressed as King or Queen or Prince or Princess or Viscount or Duchess or Lord or Dauphin? If you are a U.S. citizen, don’t expect that dream to come true—the United States does not confer titles of nobility.

On Thursday, August 23, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed to explicitly prohibit the new government from conferring such titles.

The restriction simultaneously emphasized the republican spirit throughout the Constitution and the deliberate difference from the government of Great Britain. The prohibition on conferring titles of nobility survives today in Article 1, Section 9, of the Constitution.

(If you still want to chase that dream, however, just prove yourself of great value to a nation that does not have an Article 1, Section 9!)



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