Constitution and Citizenship Day

September 17 is celebrated as Constitution and Citizenship Day commemorating the day in 1787 that the United States Constitution was signed and recognizing all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.

For four months in the summer of 1787 twelve states (Rhode Island did not attend) sent 55 men to meet in secret session in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation. Instead they created a new Constitution with a stronger central government.

(1)  Which of the founding Fathers did not attend the Constitutional Convention: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson?  

(2) Who is known as the “Father of the Constitution”?

(3) Which state was the ninth state (2/3 of the states then in the Union) to ratify the new constitution and when did that happen?

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The answers are (1) Thomas Jefferson was not in Philadelphia for the convention because he was serving as Minister to France (2) James Madison was called that because of his contributions as a political theorist and practical politician.  He took meticulous notes about the proceedings and, after the document was signed, he along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers campaigning for the its ratification. (3) New Hampshire signed the document on June 21, 1788 making the Constitution the law of the land.

Not everyone approved the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation or of the stronger federal government that was created. Some agreed to ratify the Constitution in the expectation that there would be some amendments limiting the federal power and safeguarding individual liberty. By December 15, 1791 there were 10 Amendments signed. They are known as the Bill of Rights.

There is a display of books on the third floor about the history of the Constitution and about the process of becoming a citizen. Curious about the framing of the Constitution but can’t get to the library? The National Archives provides an excellent history and analysis here.

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

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