Since 2005, we have been officially celebrating Sept. 17th as "Constitution Day." But should we have this federal holiday on this day of the year? Historical facts say No.
Today we often hear such things as: "The Constitution was ratified on Sept. 17, 1787"; "Sept. 17, 1787 is the day of the birth of our country"; "The United States government was created in 1789"; and even, "The name "United States" was first used in 1789".
First, the name "United States of America" was applied to the 13 Colonies near the end of the 1776 "Declaration of Independence." The Colonies officially became States, (Nations among Nations of the World) when each wrote and/or adopted a Constitution soon after they publicly severed all allegiances with Great Britain by issuing the "Declaration of Independence" on July 4, 1776.
For example, Pennsylvania's first Constitution was signed into law on September 28, 1776. Also, the newly independent States were first collectively governed by the "Articles of Confederation" (which was proposed in 1777 and became law after being ratified on March 1, 1781) in essence until the Constitution for the United States of America was first implemented and enforced on March 4, 1789.
The Constitution for the United States of America was signed at the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787. Certainly it was, and is, a most magnificent document that was created by Divinely inspired, brilliant delegates from 12 of the then 13 young independent States in America. But it was not yet "the supreme law of the land." In fact, it was not even law at that point in time.
According to the procedure stated in Article V of the federal Constitution, the Sept. 17, 1787 document was sent to the 13 States for ratification by Conventions of the people in each independent State. (Note: Rhode Island, because it feared the Constitutional Convention would work against its interest, boycotted the Convention and initially refused to ratify the Constitution.) On Dec. 7, 1787, Delaware was the first State Convention to ratify the proposed Constitution. The Pennsylvania Convention ratified the proposed Constitution on Dec. 12, 1787, thus becoming the second State to do so. As required by Article VII, the Constitution became law when the ninth State, New Hampshire, ratified it on June 21, 1788.
During the entire ratification process, the States raised very serious concerns about the Constitution not having a "Declaration of Rights" like those in the State Constitutions. In fact, history records that if George Washington had not pledged to make solving this deficiency the first business of the new government formed by the Constitution, it is very possible that the proposed Constitution would not have been ratified by many of the States. It is also reported that over 200 proposed Amendments were submitted by the ratifying Conventions of the States. The new federal government that was created by the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789.
The first order of business of the first Congress, as promised, was to have James Madison review all of the proposed Amendments from the States Conventions and to craft his recommended Amendments to protect the rights of the people from violations by those in the federal government. The House of Representatives of the first Congress, after reworking Madison's proposals, adopted 17 proposed Amendments and sent them to the Senate on Aug. 21, 1789. The Senate edited the House's proposed 17 Amendments and ultimately adopted its own 12 proposed Amendments. The differences between the House and Senate proposed Amendments were resolved by the Joint Committee adopting the Senate's versions.
Congress adopted the joint resolution on September 25th and forwarded the 12 proposed Amendments to the States for ratification on Sept. 28, 1789. The last 10 of these proposed Amendments were ratified by the necessary nine States on Dec. 15, 1791, thus they became part of the "supreme law of the land" on that date. These first 10 Amendments to the Constitution for the United States of America collectively became know as the "Bill of Rights".
So how did we come to celebrate Sept. 17th as "Constitution Day"? The following provides the answer to this seemingly small error and may also help explain why and how big errors happen.
1. In 1939, William Randolph Hearst, using his many daily newspapers, repeatedly called for the creation of a National holiday to celebrate citizenship.
2. In 1940, Congress designated the third Sunday in May as "I am an American Day".
3. Then on Feb. 29, 1952, Congress changed the name of this holiday to "Citizenship Day" and moved its celebration to Sept. 17th. Remember, the people in America became Citizens of their State when the State Constitution was made law. They became Citizens of the United States of America when the Constitution became law on June 21, 1788 1. This is the date when the Constitution created the new federal government and the States became part of the Union of States.
(Note 1: or in the remote possible alternative, when the Constitution went into force on March 4, 1789)
4. In 1952, Olga T. Weber, a resident of Louisville, Ohio, petitioned the City Council to establish "Constitution Day, in honor of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1789." Mayor Gerald A. Romary proclaimed Sept. 17, 1952, as "Constitution Day" in Louisville, Ohio.
5. In April of 1953, responding to a petition by Mrs. Weber, State Representative Karl Baurer and Representative John Lehmann introduced a bill in the Ohio General Assembly to declare Sept. 17th as Statewide "Constitution Day". Governor Frank J. Lausche signed Ohio's "Constitution Day" law soon thereafter.
6. In Aug. of 1953, Mrs. Weber took her "Constitution Day" crusade efforts to the United States Senate. The Senate passed a resolution designating Sept. 17-23 as "Constitution Week." The US Senate and House approved a joint resolution on this matter and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law in 1955.
7. The "law" which established Sept. 17th as "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day" was part of an amendment by Sen. Robert Byrd to the Omnibus spending bill of 2004. Prior to this "law" being enacted, the holiday was known only as "Citizenship Day". In addition to renaming the holiday as "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day", the act mandates that all public schools that receive federal funds must provide educational programs on the history of the American Constitution on that day.
The incorrect naming of Sept. 17th as "Constitution Day" by Mrs. Olga T. Weber, as honorable as the idea and personal efforts were, created and continued the initial error. The uninformed, and perhaps ignorant, government officials, at all levels, that blindly accepted and thus continued this incorrect date, compounded the historically incorrect naming of Sept. 17th as "Constitution Day". The name "Citizenship Day" or "Citizenship Week" for this celebration, and the study of the Constitution for the United States of America and our other founding documents, was correct. Sen. Robert Byrd surely knew better. Perhaps, this is why he introduced the change of the name in the "Omnibus spending bill of 2004".
Those in the federal government should celebrate the Constitution each and every day in all official actions by strictly following their "oath of office" according to the original intent of the Constitution for the United States of America. Of course to do this, all those in government must read, study and understand the State and federal Constitutions, the Declaration of Independence and many other true historical founding documents. Sadly, compelling evidence proves that most of those in government today (and for a long time) do not even read, much less study, understand and/or "preserve, protect and defend" our founding documents. This is a very serious crime!
We the People must require that this constitutional duty and responsibility be faithfully executed by those in government. To do this, we too must read, study and understand these documents. This is our duty as the sovereigns. Each perversion, both big and small, of the truth and the law corrupts our history and our republics. The preservation of freedom and liberty requires our eternal vigilance!