"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

With these words, We began our great experiment with Democracy 235 years ago.  In honor of this momentous date, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day was established as a federal day of observance to commenorate the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787.  (Being Sept. 17th falls on a Saturday this year, the actual day of observance will be Friday, Sept. 16th.)

In declaring the first the Citizenship Day in 1952, President Truman wrote in his Proclamation 2984 "Whereas it is most fitting that every citizen of the United States, whether native-born or foreign born, should on September 17 of each year give special thought and consdieration to his rights and responsibilities under our Constitution."  President Obama would later write in his Proclamation 8418 "To succeed, the democracy established in our Constitution requires the active participation of its citizenry.  Each of us has a responsibility to learn about our Constitution and teach younger generations about its contents and history."

Congress would later change the designation of Citizenship Day to Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in 2004.  Continuing in this spirit, and in service to the day's educational mission, a whole host of public and private organizations have put together resources and activities to inform and enrich us as Americans.  One of my favorites is the National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia.  The Center and Museum are located just blocks from Independence Hall where the U.S. Constitution was debated and signed.

This year the National Constitution Center has scheduled numerous online and in-person events such as a ive Naturalization Ceremony where fifty immigrants from across the globe will take the Oath of Allegiance to officially become citizens of the United States.  Other events include a Preamble Reading, the opportunity for guests to sign a giant Constitution, Scholar Talks, and a Virtual Walking Tour of Philadelphia.  Museum admission will be free both Friday and Saturday in honor of the occasion.

Both the National Archives and the Library of Congress have wonderful offerings as well.  Original copies of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence proudly known as the Charters of Freedom can be viewed at "America's Founding Documents."  You can meet the "Framers of the Constitution" or view the Faulkner Murals that grace the walls of the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  These wonders are all part of the many exhibits at the National Archives Museum in Washington D.C.

The Library of Congress has a world of interesting items for you to explore includiing the Constitution of the United States: Primary Documents in American History.  This Digital Collection includes records of the Constitutional Convention known as Farrand's Records, as well as, the papers of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.  This collection links to another even larger digital collection A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.

True to form, the Library of Congress has a Constitution Annotated for the public to view online.  The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretaton, better known as the Constitution Annotated, has served as Congress's Constitution of record for over one hundred years.  The online version was first introduced on Constitution Day, September 17, 2019.  It has recently undergone an upgrade with a new site and improved search capabilities.  A nice article detailing these changes was recently published entitled "New Features and Updates to the Constitution Annotated Website."

Scholars here at UW-Madison have also made enornous contributions to the study and understanding of the U.S. Constitution.  The University is home to the nationally renowned Center for the Study of the American Constitution.  The Center's masterwork The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution is freely accessible to the public through the UW Digital Collections.  Like the other websites mentioned above, the more you explore the more you will discover.  CSAC's website includes links to videos on the American Founding Period, maps of the original thirteen States and how they voted to ratify the Constitution, lesson plans to use in the classroom, and the Center's online bookstore.

UW-Madison will also be hosting a Constitution Day lecture on Thursday, Sept. 22nd, at noon. The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy and Dr. Lucas Morel will explore this year's Constitution Day theme: What is an America worth saving?  Dr. Morel is the John K. Boardman, Jr. Professor of Politics at Washington & Lee, and author of the recent book Lincoln and the American Founding.  The lecture is open to the public, and will be held in Room 3250, Appellate Court Room, of the UW Law School.

Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on September 12, 2022

This article appears in the categories: Law Library