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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Constitution's framers faced difficult task

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

SIKESTON - One week ago today following the series of surprise terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush said during his address that "Freedom itself was attacked this morning, and I assure you freedom will be defended."

Monday marked the 214th anniversary of a document that has served as the cornerstone of our freedoms as well as providing a blueprint for nearly every free society established since it was drafted - the Constitution of the United States of America.

As they do every year at this time, the Kings Highway Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are celebrating Constitution Week to commemorate the anniversary of its signing.

"All the DAR organizations nationwide are recognizing Constitution Week in some manner," said Shirley Whiffen, DAR member. "We've set up an exhibit at the public library."

Whiffen said current events bring to mind a passage in the forward to "They Signed For Us," a book about those who signed the Declaration of Independence by Merle Sinclair and her aunt, Annabel Douglas McArthur: "The highest tribute we can pay these men is to cherish the freedom for which they risked their lives and fortunes, and to defend that freedom against every threat."

The men that drafted and signed that document were no strangers to enduring hardships for the sake of freedom, said Whiffen.

"The sacrifices they made are as great as ours today," she said. "Many lost their fortunes and spent the rest of their lives in poor financial straits."

Realizing the Articles of Confederation of 1781 were not bringing the newly independent states together as a nation, the confederation congress called a convention in Philadelphia May 14, 1787, during which they were to revise the Articles.

Over the next four months, they did something far greater as the hashed out, drafted, and ultimately signed the United States Constitution.

Only 55 of the 74 delegates elected among the 12 participating states showed up to the convention. Rhode Island refused to participate.

Six of the delegates, George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman and James Wilson, had gathered in the very same hall 11 years earlier to sign the Declaration of Independence and between 21 and 30 delegates at the convention had fought in the Revolutionary War.

Franklin, the eldest of them at age 81, attended every session without a single absence.

Some of the 55 who did show up later left in anger; others supported the Constitution but simply had to leave early.

On Sept. 15, 1787, all but three of the remaining 42 delegates present signed the Constitution along with the secretary, William Jackson.

George Washington, president of the convention, was the first to sign, with the other delegates following in geographical order starting with the northernmost states and working their way south.

The signing of the Constitution was not the final step, however. In order for the Constitution to take effect 9 of the 13 states had to ratify it.

By May 23, 1788, eight states had voted to ratify the Constitution. Virginia had hoped to be the ninth state and "deciding voice," but was edged out by New Hampshire who approved it on June 21.

Virginia ratified the Constitution four days later followed by New York on July 26.

North Carolina gave its approval Nov. 21, 1789, and on May 29, 1790, Rhode Island accepted the Constitution and made its ratification unanimous among the states.

Articles 1-10 of the Constitutional Amendments - known collectively as the Bill of Rights - were proposed March 4, 1789, and were declared in force Dec. 15, 1791.