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The Centinel – February 9, 1788
Announcing the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in Massachusetts

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, and to  “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

The Constitution, together with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, are the founding documents of our country. Collectively, there are known as the Charters of Freedom, and are on permanent exhibit in the National Archives’ Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress provides an overview of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, with links to more information from Legislative Branch documents, Executive Branch Documents and other resources.

In his report of the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, James Madison quotes Benjamin Franklin’s address to the Convention just prior to the final vote that approves the Constitution:

“I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best.”

Madison goes on to note, making reference to the optimism of the founders that the government created by their constitution will be a success:

“Dr.  FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicisitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.”

– The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States of America, reported by James Madison, a delegate from the state of Virginia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1920).

   Available online at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_917.asp

rising-sun-chair2

President’s Chair made by John Folwell in 1779
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Picture courtesy of ushistory.org

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