The Resilience of the U.S. Constitution

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This year, 2020, our country celebrates the 233rd anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, the document that established our national government and fundamental laws and guaranteed certain basic rights for all our citizens. It’s an event we should remember annually with appreciation. Our Constitution belongs to and protects all of us.

On September 17, 1787 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention representing 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island chose not to send delegates) endorsed the Constitution created during the four-month-long convention.

That original document consisted of a preamble and seven main parts called articles. The preamble gave the reasons for writing the Constitution--to bring the existing states together under a general government providing justice, defense, welfare, and liberty for those residing within the states. The articles spelled out how the three branches of this government--legislative, executive, and judicial--were to function.

Article One said the United States Congress--the House of Representatives and Senate--would make the laws for the United States. Article Two specified the role of the Executive branch led by the President whose job was to insure the country’s laws were carried out and oversee our dealings with other countries. Article Three provided for our country’s court system.

Article Four called for the states to respect each other’s citizens, gave the Congress authority to make new states, and said the United States must insure that all states have a republican form of government and are protected from invasion and violence. Article Five outlined the process of amending the Constitution. Article Six stated that the Constitution and the laws and treaties of the United States took precedence over any other laws controlling the states and their citizens.

Article Seven set out that at least nine states must approve the Constitution before the new government could begin. Nine signed on by June of the following year, 1788, with all thirteen committed by 1790. The new federal Congress assembled in the spring of 1789 and created an entire government with George Washington as the newly inaugurated president.

Since then, there have been an additional 27 Amendments. The first ten were the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791 all limiting the power of the federal government. The first eight protected the individual, the ninth protected individual and states rights not yet named, and the tenth gave the states the rights not given to the Congress. The remaining 17 Amendments included those that ended slavery, allowed Congress to tax income, gave women the right to vote, limited the President to two terms, and lowered the voting age to 18.

That’s where we are today. That’s where our Constitution is today. About it our first president stated, “The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.” So it should be for us--”We the People.” On Constitution Day. On every day.

Alzada Knickerbocker

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