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Constitution and Citizenship Day
Each year students, faculty, and staff are emailed the information on this page to help make them aware of Constitution Day and its significance to our country's history.
The National Constitution Center offers excellent online resources for furthering your constitutional education.
George Washington (1732-1799)
Highest Political Office: President (1789-1797)
Other Accomplishments: Led the colonial forces in the Revolutionary War.
“The staid portraits of George Washington accurately reflect the personality of the father of the nation. He was a man of few words, whose political ascension was attributable to his strength of character, rather than his intellect. A huge man for his day, Washington stood 6’ 3 1/2” tall with enormous hands. Washington had pockmarked skin as a result of a teenage case of smallpox, and a shy disposition that was the result of a domineering mother. Twice he proposed to women, and twice he was rejected. He finally married Martha Custis, the richest widow in Virginia. He had lost almost all his teeth by the time he was president, leaving him with badly sunken cheeks that were stuffed with cotton for portraits. Contrary to popular belief, George Washington never had wooden teeth! His teeth were made mostly of lead fitted with human, cattle, and hippopotamus teeth. Some were carved from elephant and walrus tusks. In his will, he freed all 300 of his slaves permanently. The popular tale of Washington and the cherry tree, historians say, was almost certainly untrue.” From The U.S. Constitution and fascinating Facts About it; supplemental text by Terry L. Jordan; seventh edition, twelfth printing.
James Madison (1751-1836)
Highest Political Office: President (1809-1817)
Other Accomplishments: Helped draft Virginia’s state constitution when he was 25. Virginia’s constitution later became the model for the U.S. Constitution. Served as Jefferson’s Secretary of State.
Madison was a soft-spoken and tiny man- about 5’4” and less than 100 pounds. Even his nickname was diminutive: “Jemmy.” He was too small to serve in the Revolutionary War, and turned to politics instead. Madison, “the Father of the Constitution” - the most important legal document in modern history – never received a law degree. Even in his forties, Madison was a lonely and single man. That changed when Aaron Burr introduced him to Dolley Todd. The couple married when Madison was 43, and never had children. Dolley Madison earned a place in history when she stole away from the White House with crucial government documents and a portrait of George Washington as the British stormed the capital during the War of 1812. Madison outlived all of the other Founding Fathers. He died at the age of eighty-five in June 1836.
His presidency was marred by the War of 1812- the only war in which U.S. soil was overrun by enemy forces. Aside from the war that nearly cost him his reelection, Madison’s two terms were also memorable for the fact that both of his vice presidents died while in office.
Closest Crony Among the Founding Fathers: Jefferson and Madison were close friends throughout their lives: Madison was Jefferson’s protégé. After their presidencies, each spent many days at the other’s estate.
From The U.S. Constitution and fascinating Facts About it; supplemental text by Terry L. Jordan; seventh edition, twelfth printing.
The Year 1794 When Jimmy Met Dolley
History has tagged Aaron Burr as a scoundrel, and history has it right. He tried to steal the presidency from Jefferson while serving as his running mate. As vice president, he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton during a duel. Later, he was involved in a treasonous conspiracy against the U.S. government.
But he did make one positive contribution to the country and the presidency. It came in the form of matchmaking.
Burr served as a senator from New York when the nation’s capital was still in Philadelphia. When in town he often stayed at Mary Payne’s boardinghouse. There he met the widowed daughter Dorothea.
Like many, Burr was charmed by Dorothea’s vivacious personality. Had the two become romantically involved, history might have turned out very differently. Instead, Burr introduced her to a friend, a shy Virginia congressman who was still a bachelor at age forty-two. James Madison.
That’s how Dorothea “Dolley” Payne became Dolley Madison, the legendary First Lady who won over Washington and the world with her charm and pluck. It never would have happened but for a scoundrel.
James Madison couldn’t come close to matching his wife’s popularity. Charles Pinckney, his opponent for the white House in 1808, put it this way: “I was beaten by Mr. & Mrs. Madison. I might have had a better chance if I faced Mr. Madison alone.”
Dolley’s finest moment came in 1814, with British troops marching on the White House. She desperately wanted to save Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of Washington, the one that now appears on the one-dollar bill. When it proved too difficult to unscrew the eight-foot frame from the wall, she coolly ordered the glass broken and the canvas taken out. She escaped only minutes before the British arrived.
A bigger-than –life First Lady, Dolley was famous for her wonderful parties and her amazing gowns. She played cards for money, used rouge, and wore fancy jewelry-all shocking in her day. She lived into her eighties and was personally acquainted with every single president from Washington to Zachary Taylor.
When Dolley died in 1849, President Taylor said, “She will never be forgotten because she was truly our First Lady for a half-century.” In 1911, a popular play was written about her, entitled Dolley Madison: First Lady of the Land. That‘s how the term came into general use as a description of the president’s wife.
From The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, by Rick Beyer; first edition.
Protect The Bill of Rights.
Attached is more information on the Declaration to the Bill of Rights.
Constitutional Amendments 1-10: The Bill of Rights
"Bill of Rights, first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The Bill of Rights establishes basic American civil liberties that the government cannot violate. The states ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791, three years after the Constitution was ratified. Originally the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government, but in a series of 20th-century cases, the Supreme Court decided that most of its provisions apply to the states. Many countries have used the Bill of Rights as a model for defining civil liberties in their constitutions."
"Bill of Rights," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
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.
"The first ten amendments to the Constitution have been crucial to the political and legal development of the United States. They accomplished three important purposes. First, they declare an important ideal—that the people have rights with which no government may interfere. Placing ideals into the Constitution makes it harder for tyrants to restrict human rights. Second, they provide the basis for actually securing the rights. In 1789 statesman Thomas Jefferson wrote James Madison that a bill of rights “puts into the hands of the judiciary” a “legal check” against tyranny by the legislature or the executive. Third, the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, helps protect democratic government by barring criminal prosecutions against those who criticize the government and those who hold unpopular beliefs, and by providing a safe haven for minorities who are oppressed in many other countries." "Bill of Rights," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.