Ellis County DAR honors Constitution Week

Local chapter marks anniversary of 1787 signing of founding document

Staff report
Logo submitted by the Ellis County Daughters of the American Revolution chapter.

In recognition of Constitution Week 2021, the Ellis County Daughters of the American Revolution have submitted the following essay:

Most people believe that when our nation’s patriots defeated the British in 1783, the people of the United States of America lived happily ever after in a blissful democracy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

After the Revolutionary War, the Americans were governed by the Articles of Confederation which was a rather flimsy compact which provided for a one-house Congress, one vote per state, and very little else. The Congress did have a president, but he didn’t get his power from the people, and he was an intentionally weak figurehead because the last thing anyone wanted at that time was another king!

Within two years, the new United States was on the verge of political collapse. The federal government had no revenue and issued no currency. There was no money for raising troops, building ships or doing anything vital to a nation’s self-defense.

States took matters into their own hands. Nine states had their own naval forces and made their own foreign policies. They taxed goods from other states. There were no courts to decide disagreements between states. The new nation was in a state of chaos and confusion.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and several other bigwigs suggested having a “grand convention” to revise, debate and expand the Articles of Confederation.

In May of 1787, willing participants journeyed to the same Philadelphia building where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. They had a very big task ahead of them because by this time, the small states were suspicious of the large states, and the nation was deeply divided over the issue of slavery.

Delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island didn’t send anyone) went to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation, but created a new Constitution instead. George Washington was elected President of the Convention and would open the proceedings each morning at ten o’clock. The Convention worked as a committee which was headed by Nathaniel Gorham all day until President Washington adjourned the session at 4:00 each afternoon.

The delegates decided to keep everything they did secret because they didn’t want the newspapers or the general public to know what they were doing. To do this, they had to keep the shutters closed and the hall was always sweltering.

It took four months to write the Constitution. There were many squabbles and altercations throughout the sessions, and it often seemed like no compromise was possible. More than a dozen delegates quit and went home before the convention’s end.

Thankfully, the thirty-nine delegates that remained were able to prioritize the welfare of their country over politics or personal gains. They agreed to compromise for the greater good. Gradually, the Constitution began to take shape.

The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. Out of the fifty-five delegates who attended the convention at one time or another, thirty-nine remained and signed. The U.S. Constitution has provided the framework for an enduring system of our government for 234 years and is the oldest functioning constitution in the world.

In 1955, the President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Gertrude S. Carraway, adopted a project to promote the observance of the U. S. Constitution with a memorial week beginning on the anniversary of the signing of this document, September 17. Constitution Week was officially declared by President Eisenhower on August 2, 1956.

The DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. is the only structure dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. The inscription on the pediment reads, “Constitution Hall – a memorial to that immortal document, the Constitution of the United States, in which are incorporated the principles of freedom, equality and justice for which our forefathers strove.”

“The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.” … James Madison