Every year, on September 17, we mark another birthday of the U.S. Constitution. To celebrate this annual tradition, we’ve compiled 13 fun facts (representing the original 13 states) about it for your enjoyment! If you want to dive deeper into our history as a nation, check out Brainscape’s various history subjects, including the comprehensive History Buff flashcards.
13 Fun Facts About the Constitution
I. On September 17, 1787, only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.
II. The original Constitution signed on September 17th and ratified June 21, 1788 is only five pages long.
III. Three Latin phrases appear in the Constitution: pro tempore, ex post facto, and habeas corpus.
IV. James Madison is viewed as the “Father of the Constitution” despite his misgivings towards some of its content.
V. The 85 articles of The Federalist were instrumental in getting the Constitution ratified and were written by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.
VI. The Constitutional Convention lasted from May 25, 1787 through September 17, 1787. George Washington served as president of the Constitutional Convention, but did not speak during any of the proceedings until the Convention’s final day.
VII. During the Convention, George Washington sat in a chair that had a representation of half a sun on the top, which Benjamin Franklin regularly gazed at during troublesome moments of the proceedings. Asked why, he said he was unable to decide if the sun was rising or setting. Only when the Constitution was signed did Franklin decide the sun was rising.
VIII. Franklin, at age 81, was the oldest delegate, and had to be helped to sign his name.
IX. John Shallus, a clerk for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, physically wrote the Constitution down on parchment paper. The Convention paid him $30 for his services, which is worth about $800 today.
X. Rhode Island was the only state that refused to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention and was the last state to ratify the Constitution (May 29, 1790).
XI. One of the Constitutional Convention’s debates was the title of the nation’s Chief Executive. One possible idea: “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties.” Eventually everyone settled on “The President of the United States.”
XII. The U.S. Constitution is the shortest governing document of any nation today, and contains only 7 articles and 27 amendments. It is also the oldest; Norway’s comes in second and was codified in 1814.
XIII. Giving comfort to grammar errants everywhere, the official copy of the Constitution contains an incorrect word — Article 1, Section 10 uses “it’s” when it should be “its,” even in 18th-century usage. However, the word “chuse” as used in the Constitution was acceptable at the time. So was the alternative spelling of Pennsylvania, Pensylvania; the Constitution actually uses both spellings.
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