Constitution Day: Recognizing Our Fundamental Governing Document

The United States Constitution was adopted by the delegates meeting at the convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. Having realized that the earlier governing charge, the Articles of Confederation, provided too weak a bond for governing the states, the delegates had earlier proposed abandoning the Articles and replacing them with a wholly new instrument. Following the adoption of the new Constitution, it was submitted to the states for ratification. The ninth state to ratify was New Hampshire, which did so on June 21, 1788. The federal government was activated early in 1789 with the first session of Congress and the inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States.

Each year Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17th, as is provided by law. In 2004 Congress passed legislation that requires universities that receive federal funds to formally recognize Constitution Day by “holding an educational program pertaining to the United States Constitution.” Note also that the statutes designate the day as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.” Many law schools, including this one, had already regularly held programs honoring the Constitution on Constitution Day, for the adoption of the Constitution is of course a singular event in the creation of a government which aspires to be one “of laws and not of men.”

This year’s program on Wednesday will include Dean and Professor Louis D. Bilionis and Professors A. Christopher Bryant and Ronna Greff Schneider speaking on the theme of “The American Constitution in a Changing America.” The presentation will be given in Room 114 from 12:15 P.M. to 1:15 P.M.

Research resources on the Constitution include the database U.S. Congressional Documents on HeinOnline (off-campus access requires use of the campus VPN); “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation” maintained by the Library of Congress; and a video tutorial on Constitutional research prepared by Professor of Practice and Law Library Director Kenneth J. Hirsh.

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