Saluting Citizenship Day

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Some interesting facts lurk behind the Constitution

By John Pawlak

Once a year, we stop arguing about immigration, abortion, taxing the rich, drilling national reserves, and other typical dinner conversations that usually result in throwing food and dishes at each other.
Once a year, we turn our eyes towards those stars and stripes waving in the distance, and we remember why we’re able to argue over these things.  We have the freedom to disagree.
Sept. 17 is “Constitution Day,” a day set aside by the U.S. Department of Education to observe and honor the history of our Constitution.  
On Sept. 17, 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was sent to Congress. Nine months later, (June 21, 1788,) Congress ratified it. So was our country “born” on 9/17/87 or 6/21/88?  
And doesn’t this raise the question as to who was the first president of the United States? George Washington wasn’t inaugurated until April 30, 1989.  
If our nation was in fact a nation in ‘87, who was driving the bus? Where did the buck stop?  Had we even issued bucks yet?
This is in part the reason for setting this day aside, a chance for Americans to consider what the Constitution really is. How did it congeal into its present day form?  
How does a country of more than 300 million people manage to forge its destiny by the guiding light of a document with barely 4,500 words in it?  
Other nations’ constitutions are much larger. India’s has about 117,000 words in it.
And how much do you really know about our Constitution?  
When the Bill of Rights was first considered, how many amendments were submitted for inclusion? In addition to owning large amounts of land, what else did half of the Constitutional Convention’s delegates own? Who wrote most of the Constitution?
Well, the original Bill of Rights had 12 amendments.  The first was my favorite (one that I really think they should considered ratifying.)  
It stated that the House of Representatives would have one member for every 30,000 people.  
Today, that would translate into us having more than 10,000 representatives in the House.  
What better way to bring government irresponsibility to a grinding halt than to have 10,000 people arguing?  
With that many people tripping over each other, no decisions would ever be made.
Half of the Constitutional Convention delegates owned slaves. It’s always thought provoking to consider how little thought went into the meaning of “freedom” by some of our founding fathers, isn’t it?
As for writing the Constitution, James Madison is given the credit for the bulk of its final form.  
But if you were being asked who “wrote” it, it was Jacob Shallus, an assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly.  
Shallus was paid $30 to transcribe the final draft of the Constitution.  
That was about the average monthly salary back then.  Not bad for 4,500 words.
So anyway, let’s get back to talking about what Constitution Day is.  
But rather than argue over what the meaning of the word is is, spend a little time looking up some interesting aspects of our Constitution’s history.  
Did you know that the Anti-Federalists refused to support the Constitution?
They feared that it would make the federal government far too powerful and would lead to a nation dominated by the rich.
Boy, am I glad those guys were wrong!
And did you know that only 12 of the original 13 states were represented in the Constitutional Convention? Rhode Island refused to go. Rhode Island was also the last to ratify the Constitution, and by a small margin of 34 for and 32 against.
And when the Constitutional Convention finally came to a close, what did Washington and the other delegates do?
Well, exactly what you would expect from a bunch of manic trouble making dissidents. They went out to the City Tavern and partied the night away.  
Clearly, the people who drafted the 18th Amendment might have understood Constitutional law, but they certainly didn’t understand the founding fathers of that law.
So lift your glasses of ale (American made, of course!) and toast another year to We The People, whether or not we’re perfect or tranquil.
John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist