U.S. CONSTITUTION DAY
Thursday, September 17, 2020 

 
 

The Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia in May of 1787. The delegates shuttered the windows of the State House and swore secrecy so they could speak freely. Although they had gathered to revise the Articles of Confederation, by mid-June they had decided to completely redesign the government. There was little agreement about what form it would take. One of the fiercest arguments was over congressional representation—should it be based on population or divided equally among the states? The framers compromised by giving each state one representative for every 30,000 people in the House of Representatives and two representatives in the Senate. They agreed to count enslaved Africans as three-fifths of a person. Slavery itself was a thorny question that threatened to derail the Union. It was temporarily resolved when the delegates agreed that the slave trade could continue until 1808.

After three hot summer months of equally heated debate, the delegates appointed a Committee of Detail to put its decisions in writing. Near the end of the convention, a Committee of Style and Arrangement kneaded it into its final form, condensing 23 articles into seven in less than four days.

On September 17, 1787, 38 delegates signed the Constitution. George Reed signed for John Dickinson of Delaware, who was absent, bringing the total number of signatures to 39. It was an extraordinary achievement. Tasked with revising the existing government, the delegates came up with a completely new one. Wary about centralized power and loyal to their states, they created a powerful central government. Representing wildly different interests and views, they crafted compromises. It stands today as one of the longest-lived and most emulated constitutions in the world.

[Text from National Archives]

 

The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, hosted a
Reading of the U.S. Constitution - a Live Stream Event
on Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.,
the anniversary of the original Constitution's signing.


As an exercise in understanding where we come from, we are reading the original document, while noting where it has been amended, and also reading the amendments which represent the current version of the Constitution.

 

 

We celebrated Constitution Day with Constitution Selfies.


View the Selfie Collage HERE.

 

CELEBRATING THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE 15th AMENDMENT

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” and gave Congress the power to “enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Neither the 1787 Constitution nor the original Bill of Rights secured a right to vote, as voting was generally seen as a “political” right, rather than a natural or “inalienable” right secured to all persons, and thus it was the power of states to decide their citizens’ voting rights. Early state constitutions differed on suffrage, as both Pennsylvania’s 1776 constitution and Vermont’s 1777 constitution ended property requirements for voting in favor of universal male suffrage for residents who take the “Freeman’s oath” (Pennsylvania secured the right to all taxpayers), but most states maintained them. Still, free native-born inhabitants of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina could vote if they met the property requirements—meaning that many states allowed black male citizens to vote.

[Text from National Constitution Center]

Through the efforts of pioneering leaders like Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Fredrick Douglass and James T. White the Fifteenth Amendment was adopted in 1870.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary  Hiram Rhodes Revels Fredrick Douglass

James T. White


15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)

On This Day, the 15th Amendment is ratified

Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment. This website offers teaching materials and guides on the 15th Amendment’s significance in 2020.

How the 15th Amendment came to Los Angeles.

 
CELEBRATING THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE 19th AMENDMENT
 
 

The 19th amendment legally guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle—victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.

Beginning in the 1800s, women organized, petitioned, and picketed to win the right to vote, but it took them decades to accomplish their purpose. Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but strategies for achieving their goal varied. Some pursued a strategy of passing suffrage acts in each state—nine western states adopted woman suffrage legislation by 1912. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. Some suffragists used more confrontational tactics such as picketing, silent vigils, and hunger strikes. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.

[Text from National Archives and Records Administration]

An interactive timeline for Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment.

How The Women's Vote Was Won In The West - Click to download a pamphlet provided by The Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society.

The Sacramento History Museum recently hosted an event on Making a Suffragette Rosette. People have used ribbon rosettes for centuries to tell their stories. Colors, shapes, and emblems were used to show patriotism, support the troops, stand for a cause, show rank, or declare your loyalty. Cockades were the political lapel pins of yesteryear. Follow their VIDEO to make your own cockade for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment!

19th Amendment: Origins, History, and Legacy

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920)
 

ADDITIONAL EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Follow along with the National Archives transcription of the U.S. ConstitutionBill of Rights, and The Constitution Amendments 11-27.

Download high resolution copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Amendments 11-27.

The Constitution: How Did it Happen? - National Archives.

On this day, the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia - a National Constitution Center blog. 

Find additional information and resources on the United States Courts' website for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and Educational Activities.

An Interactive Constitution experience by the National Constitution Center.

 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Special thank you to Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis Lynn Collier of the
Eastern District of Tennessee for pioneering the Constitution Day reading idea,
and the American Democracy Project at Middle Tennessee State University
for the U.S. Constitution script it prepared for use there.

Thank you to all the organizations who helped make this event possible

Sacramento Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
United States Courts Ninth Circuit Library
Sacramento Federal Judicial Library and Learning Center Foundation
Women Lawyers of Sacramento
The Wiley Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento
Sacramento History Museum

 

United States Courts published article on Constitution/Citizenship Day

[Press Release]