The US Constitution replaced the earlier and by then clearly failing Articles of Confederation from a decade earlier. Among many criticisms of those Articles was the inability of the states to succeed at paying their collective debts, primarily loans from foreign governments that had funded our independence. In the absence of any strong common (federal) government, the confederated states had failed to make proper payments on their loans. Foreign governments were threatening the equivalent of foreclosure.
Something had to be done.
So after ten years of finger-pointing, recriminations and stone-walling, delegates from the various states met in a “Constitutional Convention” for four months through the hot 1787 summer in Philadelphia and hammered out a replacement, The Constitution of the United States of America.
It was signed on September 17th, 1787, 225 years ago.
That story, dramatized in an HBO production available on DVD from Amazon (as well as many other sources), captures the essence of what it means to be a citizen of the United States, and how we differentiate ourselves from other cultures.
Viewing that production — it’s on my iPad (again) at this very moment — always piques my interest in that history and those locations and, as often as not, I surf to the official US Archives to check some detail. (Reading the whole work, start to finish, can be done in a single flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia or Boston.)
If you are interested, you can also check your newspaper for local celebrations. Personally speaking, while our weekends are busy and I’m sure yours are too, we’re going to make a special effort to pay at least a short visit to Gilbert Arizona’s scheduled festivities.
And if any of this stirs up your curiosity, I can give my very highest recommendation to Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. Like the HBO production, it captures — in the much greater depth that only a printed book can do — the “feel” of things as these events developed two centuries ago that still forms the basis of so many of our core beliefs.
While there are many things that need improving in the world and in this country, the simple fact remains that ours is the one so many risk their fortunes and even their very lives to reach.
We must be doing something right because for centuries, the United States has been the place people have come to with hope for real change in their lives. That “hope” and that “change” have been here since the very beginning.
Opportunity and freedom are our hallmarks, and the US Constitution provides the mechanisms through which we exercise, and protect, them.