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Today is the 222nd “Constitution Day”

On September 17, 1787 the United States approved our constitution. Do you know the Preamble?

If not, please memorize it TODAY and hold yourself and your government to it for the rest of your days:

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.

You are probably aware that this constitution was fiercely resisted by the anti-federalists, Patrick Henry the most famous among them. It would have gone down to defeat had they not added the Bill of Rights, a list (bill) of rights that the constition leaves entirely to the people.

Perhaps the most relevant of those ten today is the tenth, though every government from the beginning of time has always found it in their best interest to take away all ten (thus our bill). Here’s the tenth:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

When our government does anything that the constitution has not explicitly granted them the authority to do, they are acting in defiance of the principles of that constitution and of the rights of the people.

One thing the constitution makes clear is that the government works for the people and not the other way around. Therefore, we have the right to fire our “rulers” through elections, which is another way of saying that we rule our rulers. What an extraordinary and wonderful idea!

The constitution, in other words, amounts to a job description for our government. We fail in our role as citizen-rulers when we allow people to stay in office who defy that job description, no matter how many benefits they secure for us by defying our authority.

More than anything, therefore, we must, on this constitution day, swear and live by the same oath that our president, congress, and justices swear. Here’s the president’s oath:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

On April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City and said those words. Here’s Jeffrey St. John’s description, from Forge of Union; Anvil of Liberty:

George Washington took the oath of office today… as the United States’ first President under the new constitution. It was immediately ratified by the largest and wildest crowd in New York City’s history. The spectators packed the narrow cobblestone streets and cheered themselves hoarse while city bells and artillery offered ear-splitting salutes…. The 57 year old hero of the American War of Independence stood at the portico of the Senate Chamber at Federal Hall and repeatedly bowed and nodded.

With one hand tightly grasping his steel-hilted sword and with his other on his heart, the General was clearly overcome by the waves of wild approval cascading upward from Broad and Wall Streets in the lower part of the island port city on the Hudson River.

A hush fell over the throng when a little before one o-clock today, a day that began gray but gave way to golden sunshine, the solemn six-foot one-inch Virginian turned and took a few graceful steps inside the Senate Chamber toward a dais raised a yard above the floor.

Members of the newly elected Congress, State and city officials, and foreign diplomatic ministers rose from a semicircle of chairs. The General bowed to both sides and was escorted to the center of three chairs under the dais canopy by Vice President John Adams. They exchanged bows; Mr. Adams took a chair o the General’s right and Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg on his left. …

According to one observer, there was a moment of absolute silence, Vice President Adams then rose and for the first time in his political career, for the longest moment of his life, was struck speechless.

“Sir, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States,” the Vice President finally said in a rush of words wrapped in his nasal New England accent, “are ready to attend you to take the oath required by the Constitution. It will be administered by the Chancellor of the State of New York.”

“I am ready to proceed,” General Washington replied simply in a soft Virginian accent. Both then walked to the half-enclosed portico overlooking the street, where there was a small table draped in red cloth. On this had been placed a crimson cushion which held a large leather-covered Bible…. Since those standing at teh portico could be seen from teh street, adn from rooftops adn windows across the street, Washington’s reappearance turned the silent sea of expectant faces into renewedd waves of wild cheering, which he returned with a bow, again and again, with his hand over his heart.

A sudden silence fell as Chancellor Robert R. Livingston faced George Washington – two tall men separated by a small, short Samuel Otis, Secretary of the Senate, holding the Bible on its crimson cushion. The General put his right hand on teh book and repeated after Livingston the thirty-four-word oath of office in reverential tones, as if were reading a prayer. After adding the words, “So help me God” to the oath, the President then bent down to kiss the Bible, relieving the short Otis of the embarrassing struggle to hold the book as high as his height would allow.

Chancellor Livingston, a member of the Continental Congress when George Washington became military Commander-in-Chief fourteen years before, said quietly, “It is done.”

… Like rolling thunder, thousands of human voices hailed President Washington with an explosion of emotion.


Did you do anything in your school or home to recognize this, perhaps, greatest political document in the history of the human race? Here are some resources I recommend for further reading:

  • Jeffrey St. John: Constitutional Journal; A Child of Fortune; and Forge of Union; Anvil of Liberty, three books that present the events of the constitutional era in short journalistic clips. Very good reading, published by Jameson Books.
  • Posters of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, available here
  • The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Simply incredible, a line by line guide to the Constitution. HERE.
  • The constitution itself. This is one of the five most important documents you must read as an American and a Christian. Spend five minutes a week on it and you will find your political views clarified and your understanding of government energized.

Do not consider graduating a student who has not become familiar with this document. We carry the duties of citizens of the United States and we cannot fulfill those duties if we are irresponsible in the matter of our federal government. Nor can we remain free people.

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