More Important Than July 4th?


The state of Indiana is considering a bill that would require civics to be taught grades 6, 7 and 8.

I, for one, said, “Good!”

I was taught civics at Madison Junior High School back in the days while the earth was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the planet.

Fred Flintstone might even have been my teacher.

Actually, I think it was Mr. Danner.

Civics education is the study of theoretical, political and practical aspects of citizenship, as well as its rights and duties.

It’s from the Latin word “civicus” meaning “relating to a citizen” which comes from another Latin word “civis” meaning “citizens”.

I also learned a great deal in American government class and I think that was taught by Mr. Winterbottom.

Outside of English, my understanding and training in civics and American government has probably served me as well as anything else I learned.

Today, with many crying “term limits” for members of Congress, I’ve been one who has said, “We’ve always had term limits”.

It’s something called “the election”.

Now, I know it’s awfully idealistic of me to think that we can simply “vote the bad ones out” but the problem comes when folks say, “they’re all crooks…but my guy (or gal) isn’t the problem.”

It’s always “the other guy”.

But I’ve always felt that the system established by those great Americans nearly 250 years ago is pretty solid.

The problem is, more and more Americans don’t have much understanding of some of the basic building blocks this country was started upon.

Even Americans with minimal knowledge regarding our nation’s history can probably mumble something about July 4th, 1776 that’s somewhat accurate.

It’s widely considered the day our nation declared its’ independence.

Well, was it?

On July 2nd, 1776, the 2nd Continental congress was meeting in Philadelphia.

Twelve of the 13 colonies voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence.

The delegates spent the next two days debating and revising the language of this call for independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

On July 4th, this Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration if Independence.

When news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, raucous crowds tore down a statue of Britain’s King George III.

(Eventually that statue was melted down and converted into more than 42,000 musket balls, used by American patriots in the battle against England. Talk about irony!)


More than a month passed before the actual document was signed.

You see, it took two weeks for the Declaration to be clearly-written on parchment.

Most of the delegates signed the Declaration of Independence n August 2nd, 1776.


Five didn’t sign it until later and 2 never signed at all.

On March 1st, 1781, the Articles of Confederation were ratified by the Continental Congress which, in essence, created a real government. The agreement among the 13 ratifying states established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states.

Then, on September 17th, 1787, the Constitutional Convention came to a close.

Originally, 70 individuals were chosen to attend the meeting which was originally called to amend the Articles of Confederation.

Rhode Island decided not to send any delegates.

Fifty-five men were at most of the meetings and there were never more than 46 there at one time.

Ultimately, 39 delegates actually signed the U.S. Constitution.

The document has 4,400 words and it is the oldest and shortest written constitution of any major government in the world.

Neither Thomas Jefferson or John Adams signed the constitution; Jefferson was in France as the U.S minister while Adams was doing similar work in Great Britain.

On of the most obvious spelling errors in the document is “Pensylvania” above the signer’s names.

Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk was paid $30 to “pen” the Constitution.

(You’d think a Pennsylvanian would have caught that spelling error!)

Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death!” Henry was elected as a delegate to the Consitutional Convention but he declined because he “smelt a rat”.

Support for this document was hardly unanimous.

During a popular election held in March of 1788 to determine the ratification status of the new Constitution, the vote was 237 in favor to 2,945 opposed.

The Constitution did not become effective until New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify on June 21st, 1788.

Then, on September 25th, 1789 Congress transmitted to the state legislatures 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution.

The first two dealt with Congressional representation and pay.

Amendments 3 through 12 were adopted by the states and became known as the Bill of Rights (1791).

We currently have 27 amendments, or changes, to our Constitution which is pretty amazing considering the radical changes in population, technology, infrastructure and more over those years.

It’s not to say there haven’t been lots of attempts at change.

Since 1789, more than 10,000 amendments have been proposed in Congress.

In 1876, there was an attempt to abolish the United States Senate.

In 1893, there were those who wanted to rename this nation, “The United States of the Earth”.

How about 1916 when all acts of war should be put to a national vote. Anyone voting “yes” had to register as a volunteer for service in the United States Army.

In 1933, there was an attempt to limit personal wealth to $1,000,000.

“We the people ‘ and “When in the course of human events” are more than just catchy opening statements.

They’re part of documents well worth studying from time to time.

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