What is Federalism?
AMP | Kids is proud to partner with The Mini Page, celebrating over 50 years of providing engaging and fun learning opportunities to young readers across the country. This feature was originally syndicated in newspapers the week of August 1 – August 7, 2020. It is distributed digitally here with permission from Andrews McMeel Syndication. Enjoy and share with the young learners in your life!
photo courtesy of National Archives

This mural of the Constitution’s signers hangs in the rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., near the original Constitution. It was painted by Barry Faulkner in 1936 and is almost 14 feet tall and 35 feet long.

Our Constitution’s birthday is Sept. 17. On that day in 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the document that they had worked on for nearly four months.

Ben Franklin’s speech

Ben Franklin was 81 years old. He did not have the strength to stand and make a speech at this meeting. He asked another delegate to read one he had written.

Franklin said he did not agree with everything in the Constitution. But he doubted another convention would write a better one. He urged all delegates to sign and support it.

Not everyone signed

Some delegates would not or could not support the Constitution. Three of the delegates at the final meeting refused to sign it.

  • George Mason of Virginia did not sign because it did not have a bill of rights.
  • Edmund Randolph, also of Virginia, thought it gave the president too much power.
  • Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts thought it gave the central government too much power.

After it was signed

After the Constitution was signed, it became part of a six-page report that the convention sent to the Congress, which was meeting in New York City.

Congress received the package containing the Constitution, a resolution, and a letter from George Washington on Sept. 20, 1787. In less than a week, Congress considered it and sent it to the states for ratification, or approval. It was ratified by nine of the 13 states by July 1788.

Signing Fact-a-roonies

William Jackson

During the Constitutional Convention from May 25 to Sept. 17, 1787:

  • 39 delegates signed the Constitution. They signed in order of their states, from north to south. But …
  • The Constitution has 40 signatures. The 40th is the secretary of the convention, William Jackson. He had been an officer in the Revolutionary War, and later served as President Washington’s private secretary.
  • 55 men attended at some time or other. Some went every day the convention was in session. Others came and went as they wished. Delegates from New Hampshire did not arrive until July 23.

Four did not agree with what the convention was doing and left.

  • They were all well-educated for men of their time. Twenty-seven of them had graduated from college. All were readers of books, especially history books.

In 2005, Betty Debnam, creator of The Mini Page, worked closely with the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to create a nine-part series of issues about our U.S. Constitution. This is the seventh issue in the series, which will continue once a month until Election Day 2020.

Resources:

On the Web:

National Archives

At the Library:

We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro

For Teachers: 

For standards-based activities to accompany this feature, visit Andrews McMeel Syndication. And follow The Mini Page on Facebook!

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