Next week, on Tuesday, Sept. 17, Americans will celebrate Constitution Day.
It’s not a federal holiday, so no one will get the day off, but this important date marks the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, singed by 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Article I outlines the legislative powers, vested in a Congress that consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
Article II outlines the executive powers, vested in the President, Commander in Chief of the military. “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Article III outlines the judicial power, “vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Article IV, among other things, states that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.”
Article V outlines how amendments of the Constitution can be made.
Article VI deals with debts and treaties. Even before the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, this article noted that senators and representatives, judicial officers and others “shall be bound by Oath of Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Article VII states, “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying them.” Each of the original 13 states was invited to ratify the Constitution created in Philadelphia in 1787. Only Rhode Island did not join the United States at that time; its delegates opposed federal control of currency and were critical of compromise on the issue of slavery. Rhode Island ratified the document and became the last of the original 13 colonies to join the United States on May 29, 1790.
Those who signed are called the “Founding Fathers” — no Founding Mothers on this document. The Rhode Island faction shows that there were areas of disagreement and room for improvement. But this document has served us well for 232 years. The nation that declared its independence in 1776 continues to epitomize a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that recognizes the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.