In May of 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the first time in the old Pennsylvania State House--the same building where America’s Declaration of Independence had been written, adopted, and signed 11 years before. America’s independence had been won, but now the question was how the new country would govern itself.
The men who took part in drafting our Constitution are by now household names. George Washington from Virginia was elected as President of the Constitutional Convention. James Madison, also from Virginia, was one of the Constitution’s chief architects. Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and many others played a vital role in the debates and in urging final ratification of the Constitution by the American people.
The process of drafting the Constitution was slow and, at times, contentious. There were multiple sticking points along the way, including the issue of slavery. Unfortunately, it would take another 50 years and devastating civil war to finally resolve that issue. But over the summer and into the fall of 1787, consensus began to emerge. Finally, on September 17, the delegates met for the last time and signed the Constitution in its final form. During the signing, Benjamin Franklin pointed out that a sun was carved into the back of George Washington’s chair. Franklin said he often wondered during the course of their many meetings if the sun was, in fact, setting or rising. “Now at length,” he concluded, “I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
September 17 is now celebrated as Constitution Day--a day to remember the history of the Constitution, its impact, and the importance and value we place on citizenship in our country. My hope is that you’ll take a moment to reflect on what the Founders accomplished over 230 years ago and how you and I are a part of their enduring legacy.