Constitution Day 2022

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Constitution Day 2022

On September 17, 1787, after four months of intense negotiations in the sweltering summer heat of Philadelphia, state delegates at the Constitutional Convention announced they had agreed upon a new structure of government for the newly formed United States. Having won their independence from Britain just four years earlier, American leaders sought to correct shortfalls in the Revolutionary War-era Articles of Confederation. Although the Articles offered great freedom to individual states, the system proved inadequate to meeting the political, economic, and military challenges faced by a weak but growing nation.

Instead, the new US Constitution instituted a balance of power between personal rights, local control, and national authority. It strengthened the Federal government by giving it responsibility and authority over national matters like the use of a standard currency, making foreign treaties, and providing for the common defense while granting most other powers to the states. The Constitution placed additional limits on federal power by establishing formal checks and balances between three distinct branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Delegates also achieved a careful compromise in the composition of Congress by supporting the needs of both small and large states to receive appropriate representation in the national legislature. Finally, the delegates wisely recognized they could never predict all potential future challenges to the Republic and so created a process to amend the Constitution to meet changing circumstances. This process allowed for the codification of the Bill of Rights to protect individual liberty as well as further amendments to end slavery and expand voting rights to nearly all adult Americans over its 235 years of existence.

Today, the US Constitution stands as the oldest and most widely replicated written form of national government in the world. Even so, it remains under constant threat by those who seek to subvert and undermine it to achieve selfish and partisan goals of the moment. James Madison, a key architect of the Constitution, once said, “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people” (The Writings of James Madison: 1808-1819). By this, he meant that study and understanding of the Constitution is essential to preserving the blessings of liberty and the “Spirit of Republicanism” across our great land. Just as young people learn about the Constitution in our schools, so should all Americans refresh their knowledge about this foundational document to be active and informed citizens. This year, on “Constitution Day” Saturday September 17, 2022, consider reviewing our Constitution, especially the preamble and the Bill of Rights. For more information, please check some of the online resources listed below.

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