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Tag: Senate

Eight myths about the Constitution

Only 5 men signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One of the was Benjamin Franklin (National Archives Identifier 532849)

Only 5 men signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One of them was Benjamin Franklin. (National Archives Identifier 532849)

Constitution Day is September 17. We’ve got events, programs, and activities at National Archives locations across the United States.

Pundits, candidates, and party activists like to cite the Constitution of the United States as the moral and legal backing for whatever they’re proposing. Or they say that something an opponent proposes is unconstitutional.

But the Constitution is silent on a lot of things you probably thought it said. Here are eight examples.

The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

No. He has nothing to do with the amendments. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote of both houses, or a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. However, once the amendment is proposed either by Congress or a convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.

The “Founding Fathers” who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are the same men who wrote the Constitution in 1787.

Only five individuals signed both of these two founding documents. They were George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, and Roger … [ Read all ]

The Real Constitution Day?

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, historian of the National Archives.

June 21, 2013, marks the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s ratification. As we prepare for a long, hot summer here in the nation’s capital, I can only imagine what it felt like in 1787, when delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia’s pre–air conditioning summer heat.

Their original purpose was revising the ineffective Articles of Confederation, the country’s first constitution. The delegates, however, soon decided to abandon the document altogether and start from scratch.

For four months the men worked tirelessly on a document outlining a new form of government. On September 17—now known as Constitution Day—delegates representing 12 states finished and signed the document (Alexander Hamilton signed the document even though New York lacked a quorum to vote in the convention).

Resolution from Constitutional Convention concerning ratification of the proposed Constitution, September 17, 1787, from Record Group 360: Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention (ARC Identifier 6277391)

Then the delegates passed a resolution to the Continental Congress, recommending that the Constitution be implemented upon approval by nine state conventions rather than by the unanimous approval of all 13 state legislatures as required by the Articles of Confederation.

On December 7, 1787, Delaware’s convention became the first to ratify the Constitution, earning the state its nickname “The First … [ Read all ]

Suffrage and suffering at the 1913 March

Today’s blog post comes from Jessie Kratz, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives. If you are participating in the 100th anniversary of the parade on Sunday, stop by the National Archives to see the document that finally gave women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment is on display from March 1 to March 8.

As woman suffrage advocates marched along Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913, they were met with crowds of unruly men blocking their paths and shouting derogatory remarks.

While making preparations for the parade, organizers had made repeated attempts to secure police protection—they even contacted the Secretary of War seeking assistance from the U.S. military. Richard H. Sylvester, Chief of DC Police, had assured organizers that he could manage the situation without the military, but he ultimately failed to control the crowd.

Exhibit No. 36, View of the Woman Suffrage Parade from the Willard Hotel, Washington DC, from the Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee of the District of Columbia of the United States Senate, pursuant to S. Res 499, March 4, 1913, 63rd Congress (Y4.D63/2:W84); RG 287, National Archives

The poor treatment of the marchers sparked immediate outrage.

The day after the parade, the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the Committee on the District of Columbia to investigate the police’s handling of the incident. The committee … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Truman and the no-turkey Thursday

President Truman receives a turkey from Sen. Olin Johnston of South Carolina in the Oval Office, 11/25/1946 (ARC 199535)

What do you if you love Thanksgiving but it falls on a day when you can’t eat turkey? In 1947, President Truman faced an awkward dilemma.

Truman took up the office of President during World War II, but even after the war ended, the plight of the Europeans was on his mind. Americans were still urged to conserve food so that more could be sent to the hungry and needy in a war-devastated Europe.

Part of this effort involved not eating poultry on Thursdays. Of course, this presented a problem for President Truman on the fourth Thursday of November in 1947.

Certainly, Truman could have tried a drastic move and declared Thanksgiving to be held that Friday instead. However, Thanksgiving had barely recovered from a firestorm of controversy that started in 1939.

Before that fateful Thursday in 1939, the American people had followed the 1863 proclamation of Abraham Lincoln and faithfully celebrated a day of Thanksgiving on the last week of November. But in 1939, President Roosevelt had attempted to move the date up by a week to the fourth Thursday. It was a disaster, with 32 states accepting the date change and 16 states refusing. For two years, there were two Thanksgivings on two different Thursdays.

Having the entire country disagree over … [ Read all ]

Lame ducks? Blame the Constitution.

Congress is back in town this week, and a new crop of Representives is on Capitol Hill. If you follow politics, or live in Washington, DC (and therefore hear about politics every time you turn on the news), you know that the end of 2010 meant ducks. Lame ones.

lame-ducks

(ARC 1693335)

This happens when Congress has to reconvene after the November elections. Not every member has been reelected, but they have to return and finish the business at hand. As you can imagine, this does not bring out the best in people who are packing up and looking for new jobs.

How did these lame ducks get hatched? Blame the Constitution.

A member of the House of Representatives serves a two-year term that starts January 3rd in an odd-numbered year (2007, 2009, 2011). 

But regular sessions of Congress begin on January 3rd in even number years (2006, 2008, 2010).

So when a current Congress meets between Election Day in November during an even year (like 2010) and the January start date of the new Congress (2011), there are now members who did not win reelection and will not return for the upcoming odd year (2011). These members create  a “lame duck” Congress.

In the cartoon above, lame and injured ducks (representing Democrats who lost in the 1914 election) hobble to the White House looking for jobs in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration. It was drawn by Clifford [ Read all ]