Acton Institute Powerblog

5 Facts About the U.S. Constitution

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US CONSTITUTION iStock_000007427085XSmall-300x214Tomorrow is Constitution Day, a holiday celebrated in America every year on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. Here are five facts you should know about the U.S. Constitution:

1. The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

2. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams, who at the time was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention, also did not attend the signing. The only men who both became presidents and signed the Constitution were George Washington and James Madison.

3. There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops.

4. The Constitution’s iconic opening line was not included in early drafts of the document. The preamble originally started with individual states listed from north to south: “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts…” et al. The five-person Committee of Style is considered to have been responsible for composing much of the final text, including the revised preamble.

5. More than 11,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress. There were no amendments added to the Constitution from 1804 to 1865. This was the longest period in American history in which there were no changes to our Constitution. (The first to come after that period was at the end of the Civil War the Thirteenth amendment, which abolished slavery.) Overall, the Constitution has only been changed by amendment seventeen times since 1791.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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