Constitution Day

“In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered…” Such were the words of Benjamin Franklin delivered before the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 as reported by James Madison. Franklin, who was so weakened by infirmity that he had to be carried into each session in a sedan chair, had his fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson read his words to those assembled. On that day, the Constitution was signed and copies were then subsequently made to make their rounds in the state legislatures for the acts of ratification.

The Library of Congress has an excellent site for this holiday; included in this site are: Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787; Elliot’s Debates…on the Adoption of the Constitution; and the Federalist Papers, among others.  For biographical information on the delegates, including those from New Jersey(which included William Paterson), the National Archives has a very informative page.

Did New Jersey and its delegates play a prominent role at the Convention. Ever hear of the New Jersey Plan?  As presented by William Paterson, this was an attempt to close a rift between the representatives of the larger populated states versus the representatives of the smaller populated states, who feared that the larger states would have more representational power in the new national legislature. For additional information on this and the other plans submitted at the Convention, please consult A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions. More of New Jersey’s presence can be seen in the Notes of William Paterson, and the Credentials of the State of New Jersey. If you want a more extensive look at New Jersey’s historical constitutional process, consult this Rutgers site. And lastly, if you want to know how New Jersey arrived at the Convention, please read these works: New Jersey’s Revolutionary Experience; New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Documentary History; and Crossroads of the American Revolution in New Jersey

There are several additional constitutional sites which should be consulted for their depth and extent: the American Constitution document collection at the Avalon Project; Constitution of the United  States, Analysis and Interpretation; CRS Annotated Constitution(with thousands of links); and The Founders’ Constitution, a veritable goldmine of writings by those who hammered out this document and by those whose thoughts influenced these people(essential reading!!). A still influential work on the Constitution is Charles Beard’s book An Economic Interpretation of The Constitution of the United States.  The constitutions of other countries can be found at Constitution Finder, while U.S. state constitution are here.

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