Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is an American federal observance (not a holiday) that commemorates the adoption of the Constitution of the United States and those who have become United States citizens. This day is observed each year on September 17. On this day members of the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787.
- The convention lasted from May 25 to September 17, 1787. During that time, the 55 delegates debated the duties of the government, checks, and balances, and the rights and freedoms of the people.
- They divided the government into three branches: the legislative branch to make the laws; the executive to execute the laws, and the judicial to interpret the laws.
- The delegates suffered through rough weather, heat, and illness. Despite the conditions, they formed a Bill of Rights enumerating the rights and freedoms of the people.
- Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington all signed the Constitution.
- On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution.
- Rhode Island didn’t send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Their headstrong character did not appreciate a powerful government and held tight to their independence as long as they could. As a result, they were the last state to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790.
- The original Constitution lacked a description of the individual rights. It was only in 1791 that the first ten Amendments were included, which became known as the Bill of Rights.
- On November 26, 1789, President George Washington created the first national Thanksgiving Day to give thanks to the Constitution.
- Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, citizenship is defined as “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed the amendment ratified on July 28, 1868.
- The 15th and 19th Amendments define those rights to vote for blacks and women. However, it wasn’t until 1924 that all Native Americans were granted citizenship. Through the Indian Citizenship Act, many Native Americans were allowed to vote for the first time. Still, this legislation did not stop some states from preventing some from voting.
- This holiday dates all the way back to 1911 when schools in Iowa first recognized Constitution Day.
- Then in 1917, the society known as the Sons of the American Revolution formed a committee to promote Constitution Day. Members of that committee included Calvin Coolidge, John D. Rockefeller, and General John Pershing.
- In 1939, William Hearst began to advocate for a holiday that would celebrate citizenship. William Hearst owned a chain of newspapers and used these to build awareness for his idea.
- In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared “I am an American Day,” and Congress designated the third Sunday in May to celebrate it.
- By 1949, the governors of all 48 states had issued Constitution Day proclamations. On February 29, 1952, Congress changed the name from “I am an American Day” to “Citizenship Day” and moved its observation to September 17.
- In 2004, the day was renamed Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
- In the major governments of the world, the United States Constitution is both the shortest and the oldest constitution, with only 4,543 words.
- A Pennsylvania General Assembly Clerk named Jacob Shallus was paid to pen the Constitution for $30, which is around $830 today.
- Not once in the Constitution does the word ‘democracy’ appear.
- Among the most glaring misspellings in the original Constitution was “Pensylvania”
- The famous Liberty’s Voice, Patrick Henry, did not sign the Constitution because he “smelt a rat.”
- In 1841, when Vice President John Tyler assumed the presidency after the death of William Harrison, there was nothing in the Constitution that provided for the vice president to become president. Despite lacking Constitutional authority, Tyler assumed the presidency as has every succeeding vice president in the same position. It was only in 1967 that the 25th Amendment stated that the vice president technically becomes the president in cases of removal of the president from office, death, resignation or inability to discharge the powers of office.
Here is a Citizenship test, how many can you get right?