As a government official who is proud to be serving my community, I like to recognize important days in our Country’s history. Somehow, this year, Constitution Day slipped past me without the recognition it deserves. We celebrate Constitution Day on September 17, which is the day our Constitution was signed in 1787. It is hard to believe that same document still serves as the framework for our federal government after 224 years.
Our Constitution is one of the oldest in the world still being used. This is not to say that our Constitution has not changed over the years, but its basic tenants have remained the same. The Supreme Court constantly is interpreting the Constitution to reflect our changing world, and the Constitution had been amended 27 times. Its flexibility is one reason it has stood the test of time.
Our Constitution can be looked at too as a historical document, a reflection of its era. When the Constitution was drafted, it only applied to white males. It was not until 1865 that the Constitution abolished slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment, and men of all races were given the right to vote in 1870 in the Fifteenth Amendment. Women were not given the right to vote until 1920, less than 100 years ago. That was the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
The Constitution was drafted at the Constitutional Convention, which convened in late May of 1787. The Convention met in Philadelphia during a very hot summer in what was then the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall. At that time, Philadelphia was the largest city in the country, with about 40,000 residents.
The deliberations were conducted in secret with the members of the Constitutional Convention stationing guards at the door to make sure the public could not come inside. When one delegate dropped a paper outside the hall, Chairman George Washington admonished him to be more careful or the transactions might get in the newspaper. Can you imagine the outcry from the media today if they would have been banned from such an important meeting?
From the beginning, the Constitution established the three branches of government. Those, of course, are the legislative, the executive and the judicial. The Constitution has 4,543 words including the signatures and consists of only four sheets of paper. It is on display at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. behind protective glass in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.
Only two Presidents, George Washington and James Madison, were among the 39 signatories of the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin, a delegate from Pennsylvania, was the oldest signer at 81-years-old. We often disagree over the Constitution’s interpretation, but we never question the wisdom of its principles.
I want to congratulate everyone involved in the grand opening last week of the Towpath Trail. The Trail spans several miles in Wayne Township between Downtown Fort Wayne and the Lutheran Hospital Campus. In these difficult economic times, I often have commented on the importance of having safe bicycle and walking trails especially for persons who do not have cars or cannot afford to drive their cars.
Further, it is important to have recreational facilities in our own community. Many families cannot afford to take expensive vacations out of town like they used to do. Our parks and trails afford families opportunities for fun and inexpensive family outings. And, fall is a wonderful time of year to take advantage of the Towpath Trail.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee