The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 (and went into effect on March 4, 1789), making it the oldest written constitution in the world. Happy Constitution Day!
I celebrated last night by going to a talk at the University of Montana called “Dissent and the Constitutional Dialogue” by prolific Constitutional scholar Melvin Urofsky. It was highly enjoyable and I learned a lot about how and why Supreme Court Justices write dissents (and concurring opinions).
Though there was only one entrant in the contest, it was a great one. From Lisa Meyer:
The Constitution was written in 1787 in the manner of the day — in other words, it was written by hand. According to the National Archives, the version we are most familiar with today was penned by Jacob Shallus, a clerk for the Pennsylvania State Assembly. In the document itself are several words which are misspelled. Far from the days of spell checkers and easy edits, these misspellings survive in the document today.
Only one, though, is a glaringly obvious mistake. In the list of signatories, the word “Pennsylvania” is spelled with a single N: “Pensylvania.” This usage conflicts with a prior spelling, at Article 1, Section 2. However, the single N was common usage in the 18th century — the Liberty Bell, for example, has the single N spelling inscribed upon it.
Another mistake, though less obvious, is a common one even today: the word “it’s” is used in Article 1, Section 10, but the word “its” should have been used. (http://www.usconstitution.net/constmiss.html)
How appropriate and cool. Thanks, Lisa! Enjoy $17.87 off your next edit.
I promised three facts and/or quotes, so I’ll supply two more.
Gouverneur Morris was largely responsible for the “wording” of the Constitution, although there was a Committee of Style formed in September 1787. (http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/fascinating-facts/)
Again, neat. The committee didn’t change much, but I still find it interesting that they were that concerned about the style, in addition to the substance, of the Constitution.
And to close, a quote from Ayn Rand:
It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement… (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/america.html)