Commemorating Constitution Day is a celebration of the freedom and independence of the people. It also aims to bring forth awareness about the unity of a country. The very idea of celebrating a national holiday with reference to the Constitution has become a source of irritation for many quarters. On September 21st, after the first Monday of the September session of the Parliament, an address by the President on the importance of celebrating Constitution Day will be delivered in the Federal House. The speech by the President is normally well received by the people but there have been certain apprehensions expressed by a section of people against this address.
Constitution Day background
The late Senator Robert C. Byrd, a former West Virginia Democrat and Congress’ unofficial Constitutional scholar, believed that American primary, secondary and post-secondary students lack significant knowledge regarding the United States Constitution. In December 2004, Senator Byrd proposed an amendment that was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in an attempt to increase students’ knowledge about the Constitution.
The legislation requires that all educational institutions receiving federal funds implement educational programs relating to the U.S. Constitution on September 17 of each year. This date was chosen due to the fact that on September 17, 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the United States Constitution and present it to the American public.
The whole idea of commemorating Constitution Day with the backdrop of the United States constitution is not new. However, certain sections have been against the idea of any such recognition on that day. These people claim that the foundation of the United States constitution was based on the rule of law and freedom. If anyone tries to change the existing constitutional arrangement, it is obviously going to create problems which are beyond compromise.
The proponents of such views believe that the idea of commemorating constitution day September 21st is not based on any scientific reasoning. They base their contention on the fact that during the time of the Revolutionary War many loyalist elements were killed in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. According to these enthusiasts, the signers of the Constitution were never mentioned as individuals who actually gave their lives for the Independence. Those mentioned in the Constitution such as George Washington and Samuel Adams were merely name figures.
Some facts about the Constitution
Written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and in operation since 1789, the United States Constitution is the world’s longest surviving written charter of government. Its first three words — “We the People” — affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. For over two centuries the Constitution has remained in force because its framers wisely separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights, of liberty and equality, and of the federal and state governments. Since 1789, the Constitution has evolved through amendments to meet the changing needs of a nation now profoundly different from the eighteenth-century world in which its creators lived.
- The U.S. Constitution was written in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where George Washington received his commission as Commander of the Continental Army. Now called Independence Hall, the building still stands today on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, directly across from the National Constitution Center.
- The U.S. Constitution was prepared in secret, behind locked doors that were guarded by sentries.
- Some of the original framers and many delegates in the state ratifying conventions were very troubled that the original Constitution lacked a description of individual rights. In 1791, Americans added a list of rights to the Constitution. The first ten amendments became known as the Bill of Right.
- Of the 55 delegates attending the Constitutional Convention, 39 signed and 3 delegates dissented. Two of America’s “founding fathers” didn’t sign the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was representing his country in France and John Adams was doing the same in Great Britain.
- Established on November 26, 1789, the first national “Thanksgiving Day” was originally created by George Washington as a way of “giving thanks” for the Constitution.
- Of all written national constitutions, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest.
- At 81, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention and at 26, Jonathon Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest.
Supporters of the view that the signers of the Constitution were human beings who intended to sign the document do not accept the account that Washington died as a result of a bullet from the British army. Rather, they maintain that Washington was accidentally killed in an explosion on the Potomac. There is also some historical uncertainty about Washington’s signing. It is not clear whether he intended to honor the Continental Congress or sign the document without reading it beforehand. Many of those who accept the premise that the September 21st celebration is a commemoration of the signing of the Constitution claim that there is no historical evidence to support such a view.
The opponents of commemorating constitution day argue that our nation has changed over the years and that the document was written as it was intended. To these people, changing the history by creating a new version of the Constitution will have a disastrous effect on our nation. The revisionists maintain that the U.S. constitution should not be changed except by the people, through a constitutional amendment process. If a majority of citizens agree to amend the Constitution, then it becomes a legitimate piece of American legislation.
Should the United States decide to secede from the union at some future date, the question whether or not it should honor the signing of the Constitution by the Continental Congress in 1776 would have an answer. A separation of the nations could occur if the people of a state choose to secede from the United States, and the states which wish to remain a part of the Union must attempt to persuade their constituents to ratify the Constitutional Convention. Each state would have the right to secede if the number of its residents was too great to allow it to operate as a single unit. The issue of seceding from the United States can be resolved in the future, but for now, we are stuck with the question of whether or not we should honor the signing of the United States Constitution on September, the fourth of the September.