10 things you didn't know about the Constitution


We the People of the United States...might not know a whole lot about the Constitution. A 2010 survey by the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier found that although the majority (86 percent) of people believe the Constitution has a large impact on their lives, only one-third have read (28 percent) all or most (14 percent) of the historic document.

So in honor of the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, we take a look at some things you might not have known about the birthday of the American government.

1) The Constitution was not signed on July 4, 1776, but on September 17, 1787.
The majority (55 percent) of people said that it was signed in 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. Only 13 percent of people knew that this was the signing date for the Constitution, according to a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. But it wasn't until 1788 that the Constitution was ratified by the nine states needed.

2) Not everyone at the Constitution Convention agreed with the document and refused to sign it
Of the 55 delegates present at the convention, 39 signed and three dissented -- Edmund Randolph, George Mason and Eldbridge Gerry. Randolph believed the Constitution had insufficient checks and balances, Mason and Gerry refused to sign because it lacked a "Bill of Rights."

3) Thanksgiving Day was originally created to celebrate the Constitution
Although most people know about the story of Plymouth Rock and the harvest feast filled with a cornucopia of food, there's another side to the story that has more to do with the Constitution than turkey. George Washington, who issued a proclamation on the day in 1887, originally wanted Americans to spend an entire day giving thanks for the revolutionary government the Constitution formed.

4) You have a 0.23% chance of getting an amendment passed by Congress
Since 1789, over 11,600 amendments to the Constitution have been introduced to Congress. Including the Bill of Rights, only 27 amendments have received the necessary approval from the states to be added to the Constitution.

5) It's super short
...At least compared to other documents. The Constitution is the shortest and oldest document of any major international government. It has 4,400 words written on four pages that are about 29 by 24 inches. In fact, the signature section is longer than the actual Constitution itself, with 4,543 words, bringing the grand total to 7,591.

6) There are some major spelling errors in there
Sorry, Pennsylvania -- or should we say Pensylvania? We guess there was no spell check in 1787. One of the state's delegates left out one of the N's when signing the document. And the mistake goes even further than that -- poor Pennsylvania is even misspelled on the Liberty Bell. Cringe.

7. There's no "I" in "team" and there's no "U.S." in "democracy"
Not to make this GIF super ironic, but the word "democracy" does not even appear once the the U.S. Constitution. Sorry, Mr. President.

8. Women almost didn't get the right to vote
The 19th amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, was only passed by one vote. Tennessee was the last needed state to ratify the Amendment. But it only passed after a Tennessee legislator, Harry Burn, changed his vote to "yes" after he got a scolding letter from his mother. She told the young legislator to "do the right thing" and (wo)man, are we grateful.

9. Thomas Jefferson believed the Constitution should expire every 19 years.
The Founding Father argued that because no generation has a right to bind subsequent generations, the Constitution should not be a binding document. He outlined his ideas to James Madison in a letter.

10. Presidents swear by it...literally.
Although most presidents are sworn in on a Bible at their inauguration, John Quincy Adam chose to be sworn in as the President of the United States on a book of law because he wanted to swear upon the Constitution.

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Originally published