Daughters of the American Revolution Promotes Constitution Week: September 17-23
“There are two documents of paramount importance to American history: the Declaration of Independence, which forged our national identity, and the United States Constitution, which set forth the framework for the federal government that functions to this day,” said DAR President General Denise Doring VanBuren. “While Independence Day is a well-recognized and beloved national holiday, fewer people know about Constitution Week, an annual commemoration of the living document that upholds and protects the freedoms central to our American way of life.”
The DAR initiated the observance in 1955, when the service organization petitioned the U.S. Congress to dedicate September 17-23 of each year to the commemoration of Constitution Week. Congress adopted the resolution, and on August 2, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into Public Law #915. The celebration’s goals are threefold: to encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787; to remind the public that the Constitution is the basis of America’s great heritage and the foundation for its way of life; and to emphasize U.S. citizens’ responsibility to protect, defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.
When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation, which was a fairly flimsy compact. It called for a one-house Congress, one vote per state, and very little else. The Congress did have a president of their assembly, but he didn’t get his power from the people, and he was an intentionally weak figurehead, because the Founding Fathers certainly didn’t want another king! Within two years, the United States was on the verge of political collapse. The federal government had no power to tax people, goods, properties or businesses. Thus, it had no revenue and issued no currency which meant it didn’t have the means for raising troops or financing other vital activities needed for the nation’s defense.
Individual states had their own naval forces and their own foreign policies. They imposed taxes on goods from other states. There were no courts to handle disagreements between states. Private banks were issuing their own currency which was often distrusted and viewed as IOUs which might never be paid back.
Clearly, something had to be done or the nation would be no more. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and several other influential people proposed holding a convention of chosen delegates from each state who would meet to revise and expand the Articles of Confederation. Seventy-four delegates were chosen by their respective states, but only fifty-five attended. In the end, there were forty-two who stayed the course for almost five months.
From May 25, 1787 until September 17, 1787 the delegates squabbled and sweltered behind locked doors in an unventilated building in Philadelphia where temperatures and tempers were often very hot! At times it seemed as if there were so many roadblocks that framing a useable document was an impossible task.
Thankfully, enough of the delegates realized that there had to be compromise among the states, and on September 17, 1787, the document was presented in its final form for the delegates to sign. Of the 42 delegates remaining at the Constitutional Convention, 39 signed and 3 dissented. It wasn’t until 1788 that the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the necessary nine states.
So, during the week of September 17-23, fly your flag, eat a hot dog and celebrate Constitution Week! Celebrate those thirty-nine sweaty men who argued, hoped, feared, persevered and compromised to create a lasting document that still governs today!
“The Constitution is the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen.” (John Adams)
“The Constitution is a little short of a miracle.” (George Washington)
– Becky Lynn is a writer for EllisDownHome.com. She and her husband Bob enjoy spending time with their 8 grandchildren and traveling. Becky loves cranking up the music and heading to the kitchen to try out new recipes or cook for an upcoming party. She is passionate about continuing to be a life-long learner!