Constitution Corner

Shrieking war whoops, flashing tomahawks, and sweeping destruction brought the War for Independence home to every man, woman, and child living on the western frontier of America in 1776. They were not forced to defend themselves against smartly uniformed soldiers, but against savages who would murder the smallest child or most helpless woman without hesitation. Neither age nor gender mattered when the scalps were presented for payment at Fort Detroit. Henry Hamilton, the fort's commandant and dutiful English servant, paid handsome rewards for such trophies.

The year was 1781. At Yorktown, Virginia, the British General Cornwallis had surrendered to American Commander in Chief George Washington. The War for Independence had been won, the British defeated, and a new nation established… or so most Americans thought.

There is a symbol, older and more famous than the rest. Visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one can still see this giant that weighs more than 2,080 pounds. It is, of course, the Liberty Bell. 

Formally, she is called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” but most of us know her at the Statue of Liberty. Her home is an island in the harbor near one of our greatest cities. 

When you hear the words "Star-Spangled Banner," do you think of our national anthem - or the Stars and Stripes, our nation's flag?

 

Most of us probably think of both, but the Star-Spangled Banner was actually a unique flag, designed for one specific purpose, and used for that purpose only. The enormous banner (measuring 30 feet high and 42 feet long and weighing about 200 pounds) never flew again.

Did you know that there is a famous American beauty for whom young Americans continue to fight and die despite her age of more than 200 years? She was born on June 14, 1777, two years into the Revolutionary War, and went to battle with the shoemakers, farmers, and tavern owners of the Continental Army as if she had been born for the experience. This was indeed the case.

There is a secret ingredient in the American system of government that is more important than the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. It made the principles and provisions of those three unique documents workable. Sadly, it is rapidly being deteriorating, and unless it is revitalized, the ideals embodied in our nation's founding documents will have no more meaning than the average politician's promise.

“Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection...”

Those were the sentiments of George Washington in 1789 just after becoming President of the United States. Many Presidents and other federal officials have given similar supplications since, but in 1962 the Supreme Court ruled that such prayers could no longer be uttered in government schools because they violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Like a newborn calf struggling to stand for the first time on four wobbly legs, in 1788 the new U.S. federal government began the transformation from mere words and concepts to a working body of lawmakers, executives, and judges. North Carolina and Rhode Island remained reticent about ratifying the Constitution, but each of the 11 states that had ratified by then began formulating procedures for electing Senators and Representatives, as well as the presidential electors who would choose the first President.

In September 1787, the Philadelphia State House was the focus of every American's attention. Fifty-five men had assembled there in May to decide on a form of government for the new nation. They met in the same room of the same building where patriots of a similar vision had gathered in the summer of 1776 to decide whether the 13 colonies should submit to the dictates of the English King or fight for their independence.

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