The Constitution serves as the foundation of government in the United States and is one of the most influential documents ever drafted. However, the history and creation of those fabled pages include some unusual happenings and unexpected facts.
Here are a few things you likely never knew about the Constitution.
The US constitution is the oldest in the world.
The US Constitution drafted in 1787 remains the world’s oldest written national consultation still in use. At the time of writing, the document was only four parchment pages long and contained just 4,400 words. With the added amendments, the current constitution clocks in at 7,762 words.
Benjamin Franklin needed to be carried to the signing of the Constitution.
By the time of the Constitutional Convention, 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin was in such poor health that he needed to be carried in an enclosed sedan chair to the statehouse, according to “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson. The chair was supported by four prisoners from a nearby jail.
The president was almost addressed as “His Highness.”
The Constitution does not indicate how the nation’s president should be addressed. After the inauguration of President George Washington in 1789, the Senate considered a few different appellations.
According to the Mount Vernon estate, Vice President John Adams suggested options including “His Elective Majesty,” “His Mightiness,” and even “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and the Protector of their Liberties”.
The Founding Fathers didn’t actually intend to write the Constitution.
The Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia from May to September of 1787. It was attended by delegates from all of the 13 original states except Rhode Island and was initially convened to tweak the Articles of Confederation.
However, upon reviewing the Articles of Confederation, the delegates came to the conclusion that an entirely new document was needed.
Thanksgiving was actually created by George Washington as a way to thank God for the Constitution.
The first national Thanksgiving was observed on Thursday, November 26, 1789 by proclamation of President George Washington.
The holiday was established by the president as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
The Constitution doesn’t say anything about the US being a democracy.
Nowhere in the Constitution is the US called a democracy. In fact, the founding fathers thought that a direct democracy was a dangerous form of government that privileged the sentiment of the majority over the rights of the minority.
Instead, the Constitution frames the US as a republic, where citizens elect representatives to make decisions for them rather than voting on decisions directly.
In a letter from John Adams to John Taylor, Adams remarks that “democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Benjamin Franklin proposed allowing presidents to be impeached in order to avoid assassinations.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, Benjamin Franklin supported adding the ability to impeach a president to the Constitution because he thought it would prevent assassinations.
Franklin apparently argued that assassination would leave a president “not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.”
In the Federalist papers, Alexander Hamilton clarified the grounds on which a sitting president should be impeached:
“Those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
There are several spelling and grammar mistakes in the Constitution.
According to the National Archives, the original US Constitution contains several spelling and grammar mistakes.
Jacob Shallus was the assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature who wrote out the final, formal copy of the Constitution after the Convention adjourned on September 15. After completing the transcription, he went back and corrected various omissions and misspellings, keeping a record of his changes so that no one would think the erasure marks the result of illegitimate attempts to change the Constitution.
However, the most glaring mistake was made by Alexander Hamilton. In the process of managing the signatures on the document, Hamilton accidentally wrote “Pensylvania.”
Two famous founding fathers never signed the Constitution.
Though they’re usually considered to be “founding fathers,” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams never actually signed the constitution. Both were serving as diplomats in Europe at the time of the Constitutional Convention.
A little-known lawyer was responsible for the final wording of the Constitution.
Gouverneur Morris was a conservative statesman and lawyer who served on the Committee of Style tasked with adding polish to the final version of the Constitution. Morris ended up being responsiblefor much of the wording of the final edit of the document.
The original Constitution almost limited the size of the army to 3,000 troops.
During the drafting of the Constitution, one delegate was against the idea of maintaining a large standing army. According to James Madison’s account of the drafting of the constitution, Elbridge Gerry proposed that “there should not be kept up in time of peace more than [two or three] thousand troops.”
Apparently, George Washington was against the measure and quipped that they should also add a stipulation that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops.
By Sophia Mitrokostas