The Bugler

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We the People, 226 Years Strong

We celebrate many important days in the history of our country but one particular federal celebration is unknown to most Americans. Today, September 17, is Constitution Day or Citizenship Day as it is sometimes known. An amazing fact is that the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in use in the world. For five years the Articles of Confederation had provided a loose structure for the confederation of the United States. However, the confederation was very limiting. According to This Day in History, "On paper, Congress - the central authority - had the power to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency, but in practice these powers were sharply limited because Congress was given no authority to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops." To solve these problems, the leaders of the country proposed a constitutional convention which was held in the same building in Philadelphia, known today as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.

One of the smartest things this august group did was to start over instead of trying to amend the Articles of Confederation. This allowed for some of the most ingenious parts of the Constitution, the bicameral, or two houses, of Congress and the system of checks and balances between the three branches of government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial branch.

The most amazing part of the process is that compromises had to be made and creative solutions were reached. The bicameral legislature solved the bitter fights regarding state representation and instead of torpedoing the constitution when Massachusetts would not sign because there was no "constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press." Instead of giving up they compromised with a solution that a Bill of Rights would be immediately proposed.

The Bill of Rights ... Take 2

The original Bill of Rights contained 12, not 10, amendments. The first right, as originally drafted, stated that there would be one representative for every thirty thousand people, this number increasing over time until one representative represented no more than fifty thousand. Today each representative represents over 650,000 people. If this bill had been adopted there would be more than 6000 representatives today. Talk about gridlock.

The second amendment, as originally drafted, but rejected by the states, addressed congressional pay. This amendment was finally ratified as the 27th Amendment, 203 years after it was first proposed.

As a result of the failure of the states to ratify the original first and second amendments in 1791, the original third amendment became a part of the Constitution as the First Amendment we cherish today:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Learn more about the original bill of rights at About.com.

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