The Constitution is the bedrock of our form of government and the Bill of Rights bestows to us our freedoms and way of life in these United States. For nearly 230 years, it has constituted a deep and uniquely American experience with democracy.
Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, was established in its current form in 2004. It is a federal day of observance to commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787, and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” The holiday is observed this year on Friday the 16th, as the 17th is a Saturday.
An original copy of the Constitution can be viewed online at the National Archives and Records Administration "Charters of Freedom" website alongside the Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.
Constitution Day has a strong educational focus intended to teach us more about the history of our American Constitution. The Library of Congress maintains a webpage dedicated to this purpose. It is a good starting point with a short overview of the holiday, a listing of Legislative and Executive branch documents, and links to many other web resources.
The educational experience may be had by young and old, and everyone in between. "Teaching with Documents: U.S. Constitution Workshop" is an interactive website hosted by the National Archives. The lesson plan found here is suitable for grades 4-12. This page links to "Teaching with Documents: Observing Constitution Day" where you can learn more about the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution for example.
Many private and civic organizations take part in this educational endeavor as well. The National Constitution Center's website has a countdown clock to Constitution Day with an interactive Constitution and additional features to explore the history of the Bill of Rights and "Rights Around the World." The National Constitution Center Museum in historic Philadelphia is just blocks from Independence Hall where the signing took place.
Another very interesting website to visit is ConSource: The Constitutional Sources Project
which has put online a rich assortment of historical sources related to
the creation, ratification, and amendment of the United States
Constitution. Some of the collections available include James Madison's Notes of the Constitutional Convention, a Bill of Rights Legislative History, and State Ratification Debates.
Closer to home, UW-Madison is sponsoring some events to be held here at the Law School to commemorate Constitution Day. Come join, learn more. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government."
Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on September 14, 2016
This article appears in the categories: Law Library