17th > 4th

It’s arithmetically trivial, but this equation is probably debatable for people who compare the dates for two documents that are important in US history: the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Because today is one of the anniversaries for the former, it’s worth taking a moment to contemplate their importance.

Adopted on 17 September 1787 by delegates from the governments of the states participating in an agreement among the 13 former British colonies on the North American continent, the Constitution supplanted the US Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Constitution created a stronger federal government than the Articles, resolving substantial economic and legal woes befalling the states under the latter.

Because of its rhetorical brilliance and influence, one can argue that the Declaration is more important than the Constitution.However, one can also argue that the Declaration merely declared the colonies’ independence. The Constitution established how the states would cooperate; it provided the framework—the procedures—for democracy.

But this issue also invites another comparison: Where’s the US Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, in relation to the Declaration and the Constitution? Well, perhaps that’s a matter for another post on the date when sufficient states ratified those amendments.

Read more about the history of the Constitution: A Web version of the introduction to Roger A. Bruns’ (1986) A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the United States Constitution. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

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Filed under Birthdays, Civil rights, Equity, Free speech, News

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