Fun Facts for the Fourth

With the Independence Day holiday weekend just a week away I thought I’d provide you, my dear readers, with an assortment of facts about this country’s history that you can share with friends and family while the charcoal heats up, while you wait for the firework displays to begin, or at any other occasion where you feel it appropriate to annoy those around you.

• The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are collectively known as the Charters of Freedom. All three documents are written on animal skin.

• The Declaration of Independence was not addressed to King George, nor was a copy ever delivered to him by colonial representatives. The purpose of the document was to explain to Americans why it was necessary to part ways with Great Britain and to provide a rationale for this action to the rest of the world. While there are sections that reference the “present King of Great Britain,” the phrasing is rhetorical. American delegates did not believe that Parliament was a representative body (i.e. “no taxation without representation”) and therefore had no legal authority over the colonists. If they had addressed their Declaration of Independence to Parliament, or referenced Parliament in any way, the delegates feared they would be giving tacit acknowledgement of that body’s authority over them.

• John Hancock was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress adjourned on July 4 (following three days of debate on the Declaration of Independence) after voting to adopt the document with some revisions. Hancock, as President of the Continental Congress was responsible to authenticating the revisions, signing the document on behalf of the other delegates, and sending copies to the colonial legislatures and the army.

• Only Hancock and Charles Thomson from Pennsylvania, who was serving as secretary of the Continental Congress, signed the first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. The remaining delegates did not sign until August 2, or later, and their names were kept secret to keep them from being charged with treason.

• Our country’s Constitution was written in 1787, and was signed on September 17th. Ratification of the document by the required nine states did not occur until 1788.

• The Constitution was written in secret behind locked doors that were guarded by sentries.

• The original Constitution lacked any description of individual rights. This omission bothered some of the Constitutional Convention delegates and many of the delegates at the state ratifying conventions. This oversight was corrected in 1791 when ten amendments were added to the Constitution, which became known as The Bill of Rights.

• Though 74 delegates were nominated, only 55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention, and only 39 actually signed the document while 3 dissented. Two of the country’s most famous “founding fathers,” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, never signed the document. Jefferson was representing the country in France and Adams was representing the country in Great Britain at the time of the signing.

• On November 26, 1789, George Washington declared the first national “Thanksgiving Day.” The celebration was intended to give “thanks” for the Constitution.

• Of all the world’s written Constitutions, America’s is the oldest and the shortest. Our Constitution consists of four hand-written pages and a transmittal page.

• Jonathon Dayton, of New Jersey, was the youngest delegate at the Constitutional Convention at 26 years of age. Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania, was the oldest delegate at 81 years of age.

• One of America’s greatest wisdoms may be in knowing when to leave a good thing alone. In the course of our country’s history more 11,000 amendments to the Constitution have been introduced in Congress. Only 33 amendments have actually gone to the states to be ratified and, of these, only 27 have been ratified.