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Fun Facts About the Constitution

Benjamin Franklin was carried to sign the Constitution by prisoners.

By:  |  September 20, 2021  |    523 Words
GettyImages-1340911380 Constitution

(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

It’s Constitution Week, time to learn about and celebrate the founding documents that made the United States the free country that it is today. The Constitution is a reminder of what early Americans fought for and how to preserve our freedoms and liberties that so many gave up their lives to ensure. Such an important document does have its quirks and an interesting history. Here are just a few of those stories.

Signing the Constitution

Delegates from the colonies went to Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the Constitution. They kept the windows of Independence Hall shut so that outsiders couldn’t hear their discussion. Patrick Henry, who is considered a Founding Father and who is known for his declaration “Give me liberty, or give me death!” chose not to attend the Constitutional Convention because, he said, he “smelt a rat” – meaning he was suspicious of the meeting. Neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams was able to attend, both serving out of the country at the time. George Washington and James Madison (known as the Father of the Constitution) were the only two men to sign who served as presidents.

Of those who did sign the document, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at 81 and needed help putting pen to paper. The elderly inventor was in so much pain he had to be carried to the Hall by four prisoners from Philadelphia’s Walnut Street jail, who supported him around the city in a sedan chair. Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest signer at just 26 years of age.

A Look at the Constitution

The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and also the shortest written constitution of any major government in the world. It has only 4,543 words – 7,762 if you count the amendments – and was written onto four large sheets of paper. There were no typewriters or computers at that time, so it had to be handwritten, or “penned.” Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk, received that honor and was paid $30 (about $900 today) for his efforts.

You may notice some odd spelling of words in the founding document. At the time, there was no standardized way of writing English, so the Constitution, as well as other older documents, had words that we would consider wrongly spelled today. Pennsylvania, for example, is missing an “n.” Other words include the British spellings of “defence” and “labour,” or even “chuse” for “choose.”

Celebrating the Constitution

Did you know that the first national Thanksgiving was to give praise to the Constitution? President Washington proclaimed “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”  That day was November 26, 1789.

The Constitution was so well written by the Founding Fathers that it is tough to make any changes centuries later. More than 11,600 amendments have been proposed since the document’s creation. Of those, only 33 have been sent to the states for ratification – and only 27 have actually been approved.

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