Attributed to David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders.
The Constitution of the United States is the product of nearly a decade of political activity. You start back with the American war for independence, when we declared independence, we wrote the Declaration for Independence. We needed a way to govern ourselves. We had 13 states but they were really more like 13 nations. So you bring 13 nations together, kind of like Europe has, and you ask how do you govern yourselves? Well, we came up with in 1777 with the Articles of Confederation.
That was the way we kind of ran things throughout the American war for independence, and it worked pretty well for that but by the end of that conflict, we recognize this is really not very good, there’s too much latitude for one nation to veto for what the other 12 are doing – we need a better way of doing this.
So, they started having small mini conferences, they had for example in 1785, a bunch of leaders gathered with George Washington at Mount Vernon called the Mount Vernon Conference. They said what are we going to do? The Articles of Confederation just aren’t enough to be able to govern the nation. In 1786, they had the Annapolis Convention; they met in Annapolis, Maryland and said what are we going to do? In 1787, they gathered to produce this document at the Constitutional Convention of Philadelphia.
Now when they gathered at that convention they first came together to try and revise the Articles of Confederation, that’s what they were trying to do. There were 55 individuals who gathered there, and they gathered there in May of that year from May through September. They worked on how to do we create a nation framework of governance. They decided pretty early on that we’re not going to be able to revise the Articles of Confederation, which is just a flawed document, so let’s start with something new.
So these 55 individuals began to do that and by the time you reached the middle of September they had finished their work. On September 17, 1787 they signed what we now know as the Constitution of the United Sates. At that time, only 39 of the 55 individuals signed that document. There were 16 who were there who framed the constitution, who had input on the constitution, but decided not to sign that document. Some of that was because they had various reasons, but a lot of it was we think this constitution actually gives too much power to the federal government , where at least it’s possible for the federal government might take extra power , and we need a way to limit the federal government.
So leaders at the convention such as George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, and Luther Martin, and others, went back to their states and said hey, we the states need to stand up and say that the federal government can only have so much power and that resulted in what we now know as the Bill of Rights.
So the 16 who didn’t sign the constitution became active in creating the second document but the constitution itself produced by 39 signers is what we use to govern ourselves today.
That Constitutional Convention – remarkable convention, remarkable group of individuals there – produced a document unlike any other. We’ve been under that one constitution for more than 200 years. It has adjusted and adapted to every generation, every part of technology – it’s a remarkable document.
The length of a constitution in the world’s history, the average length, is only 17 years. We haven’t gone through another revolution since we’ve had this constitution, and yet if you look at Poland they’ve had seven constitutions just since 1919. Matter of Fact, South Korea’s had six constitutions since 1948.
There have been more than 25 nations that have had 25 constitutions in their nations since we’ve had just this one. So this is a remarkable document and the country has been blessed as a result, but that’s a little bit of the background of how that document came to be.