Constitution is a set of rules for the government of a country. These rules define the principles, powers, and duties of a government and also lays down the rights and duties of its countrymen. Numbering at just 4,440 words, the US Constitution is the shortest Constitution of the world. Nevertheless it is symbolic of the spirit of the people of the United States to declare their sovereignty and to join all the different states under one set of rules, as members of one strong country. It was a set of rules and principles, drafted by the Constitutional Convention, and was later on altered by several amendments and the Bill of Rights. Here are some interesting facts which are important to know about the Constitution, and are fascinating on the whole.
Why was the Constitution Written?
► On July 4, 1776, the Congress approved the wordings of the Declaration of Independence. With this, Thirteen British colonies in North America declared that they were no longer part of the British Empire. However, the declaration did not provide any framework or guidelines to the governments of the new states on how to proceed with running the states.
►The state governments carried out their functions in cooperation with the Continental Congress till the Articles of Federation were formulated and ratified in March 1781. However, the political structure that was suggested for the independent states was much different from the one that the present US Constitution stipulates for the country.
► The Articles of Confederation allowed the state governments to maintain sovereignty over all governmental functions of their land. The Congress on the contrary was not given much actual power. Though it had a say in almost every aspect of governance of the states, its recommendation did not bind on any of the state governments. It did not have any power over the commercial policies of the nation.
► It could request the states to contribute to the national treasury but did not have any legal authority to levy taxes. When it came to settling disputes among states, the central government could again just suggest measures. It was upon the states to abide by the suggestions. With such reduced say in the affairs of the states, the Congress was trying to function with an almost depleted treasury.
► Paper money was floating around and inflation soared up. The states were on the edge of economic disaster. A need was felt to make certain changes in the Articles of Confederation that would give greater power to the Central Government so that stability could be brought to the states. As a result the Philadelphia Convention was called in 1787 which lasted from May 25 to September 17.
When was the Constitution Scripted?
► Other than Rhode Island, the rest of the 12 states agreed to send their delegates to the Philadelphia Convention. On May 25, 1787, 55 delegates from different states met at the Pennsylvania State House, now known as the Independence Hall, to discuss the changes in the Articles of Confederation.
► The convention was presided over by George Washington and William Jackson was the secretary.
► Although the main aim of the convention was to alter the Articles of Confederation, it soon became evident that a new Constitution was required to be written to form a central government that had powers to build a nation with firm commercial policies.
► The convention started with the Virginia Plan as the unofficial agenda. It was drafted by James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
► However, this plan tipped the scale in favor of the larger, more populous states. This was opposed by the smaller states that put forth the New Jersey Plan that provided the smaller states a better representation in the national government as per the new Constitution. However, with the Great Compromise of 1787 the impasse created by the two groups was resolved and the first draft of the US Constitution was drawn on August 6, 1787. The various sections of the draft were discussed by the various delegates for about a month till it was on September 17, 1787 when the US Constitution was signed.
The Constitution was not written on a single date nor was it written by a single person. It is in true form, a reflection of the opinions and ideologies of an entire nation, representatives of which convened for over months to write down the Constitution of one of the most developed countries of the world today.