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Constitution Day

We — Americans — appreciate our Constitution.

The Constitution is what the government of the United States is based upon; it outlines the laws, and describes the rights of the nation’s citizens.

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed it on Sept. 17, 1787.

The constitution created a federal government with three branches — executive, legislative and judicial — replacing the Articles of Confederation.

The Bill of Rights, which started out as 10 amendments to the constitution, came to be in 1791. They spelled out basic freedoms — for example, speech, worship, press and assembly.

Since then, 17 amendments have been added. The 27th amendment pertains to pay raises for congressional members, stating that the raises or changes in pay don’t take effect until after the next election. This gives constituents the opportunity to retain a member or vote in another under the new pay scale. The amendment was ratified in 1992.

Fifty-five delegates from all 13 states except Rhode Island participated in the original constitutional convention. Rhode Island feared a new central government would interfere with its economy.

The issues before the convention also proved controversial. Among them is the issue of representation. At the time of the convention, large states wanted Congress’ membership determined by population, but small states wanted equal representation.

The end result was known as the Connecticut Compromise in which the House of Representatives was determined by proportional representation, while the Senate was based on equal representation.

George Washington, the convention’s president, signed the constitution first. Thirty-nine of the 55 delegates signed and nine of the 13 states ratified it to establish the new federal government, which took effect March 4, 1789. Washington became president 57 days later.

All 13 states had ratified the constitution by 1790.

At the close of the constitutional convention, Benjamin Franklin commented that the document might have flaws, but he doubted a better one could be drafted.

Throughout the years, the constitution has been adjusted through amendments. But it remains the pillar our forefathers imagined.

Today — Constitution Day — we note its 230th anniversary.