Citizenship Day / Constitution Day
September 17this the day when two important observances take place: Citizenship Day and Constitution Day. There is also Constitution Week which is observed the week of September 17 – 23. The Library of Congress official site describes these observances as being created to both commemorate the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” During this time, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “encourages Americans to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen.”
Citizenship & Constitution Day will be observed on Thursday, September 17, 2020.
To understand why Constitution Day and Citizenship Day are so important, we must examine the origins of the U.S. Constitution, which spells out the basic liberties, rights, and responsibilities for American citizens.
A History of The U.S. Constitution
The original document that helped shape the American democracy was not the United States Constitution.
In 1781, the Articles of Confederation established the earliest American national government but wasn’t quite up to the task of producing a robust federal government that could unite the states into something more than a set of independent territories united by a common goal of being rid of British rule.
America won its’ independence in 1783; the success of the American Revolution carried great implications for the colonists, who needed to ensure “the great experiment” of American democracy would survive its’ independence from the United Kingdom.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787
In 1787 the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia resulted in the signing of the United States Constitution, producing the three branches of government we know today as the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches and established a separation of powers between the three. Ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, would be added in 1791. Ultimately 27 amendments would be added over time.
September 17, 1787 is the date the Constitution was signed by the delegates from all 13 colonies except for Rhode Island, which abstained from the convention. George Washington was the first signer of the document, of the 55 delegates who attended the convention, 39 total signatures were made-some delegates had departed before the Constitution was ready for their signatures.
How The U.S. Constitution Became The Law of The Land
Drafting, approving, reviewing, and signing the U.S. Constitution was not the process that made it the central document of American democracy. Getting the 39 signatures was only the beginning. There was still the process of ratification to get through; at least nine of the original 13 colonies had to ratify the Constitution in order for it to become law.
This is why Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison worked together on The Federalist Papers. This collection of writings was one of America’s earliest PR efforts and designed to convince people in the 13 colonies to get behind the Constitution and explain how the new government would operate.
Those who believed in the Constitution were known as Federalists. There were Americans who opposed the Constitution because they felt too much authority was being centralized at the federal level. These opponents were labeled Anti-Federalists.