Constitution Day


Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), considered by many of his Senate colleagues the most learned student of the nation’s founding documents, accomplished a long-standing goal by getting a rider passed in the 2005 Appropriations Bill. The law designates September 17 as Constitution Day. It requires schools and federal agencies to hold educational programs on the Constitution on the anniversary date when, in 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.

Of those 39 signers, the University of Houston Libraries’ Special Collections Department owns a number of books written by, and original documents signed by, some of those delegates to the Constitutional Convention: Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Charles Pinckney, and George Washington. This mini-exhibit is presented close to the time in which Constitution Day falls.

For further information about the U.S. Constitution and Constitution Day, see www.constitutionday.us and www.constitutioncenter.org.

-Pat Bozeman, Head
Special Collections

Special Collections Constitution Day Exhibit


Charles Pinckney. Partly printed Document Signed, Columbia, South Carolina, March 6, 1797.

As Governor of the State of South Carolina, Pinckney signs a grant of 500 acres of land to Jacob Boughman. Affixed by silk ribbon atop the document is a hand-written certification, complete with a drawing of the tract of land, by the state's Surveyor General.

Gift of Mr. & Mrs. John T. Carter
The Claude Elliott Memorial Collection

Facsimile of the U.S. Constitution

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The fifty-five delegates who signed this monumental political document were the best minds of the Colonies at the time. The Constitution was forwarded to the Congress and, the following year, was ratified by conventions in nine states, and became the law of the land.

The original parchment document on which the Constitution was written was in the custody of the Department of State. Of necessity, it traveled with the federal government from New York to Philadelphia and, finally, to Washington. In order to allow citizens in all parts of the Republic to read the Constitution, its entire text was printed in the newspapers of the day. Two days after its signing, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser printed the entire text in its issue, dated Wednesday, September 19, 1787.

Taken from Archiving Early America


George Washington. Document Signed, Headquarters, Valley Forge, April 6, 1778. Directed to Israel Shreve, colonel of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment.

General Washington orders Colonel Shreve "to constitute and appoint a General Court Martial consisting of a President, who shall be of the rank of a Field Officer and twelve members for the trial of William Seeds and such other offenders belonging to the Army of the United States…" This document was written following a cruel winter (1777-78) and bitter hardships the Continental Army endured at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The soldier-in-question, William Seeds, was a deserter of his unit, the Fourth New Jersey Regiment, who had gone over to the British army, but was captured. Following court martial Seeds was hanged.

Gift to Special Collections from:
Mrs. Emily Scott Evans
The Israel Shreve Revolutionary War Letters

The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; the Declaration of Inependence; the Articles of Confederation between the Said States; the Treaties between His Most Christian Majesty and the United States of America... Published by Order of Congress... Philadelphia printed: London reprinted...for J. Walker...and J.L. DeLolme, 1783.

The first printing of this work occurred in 1781, also printed in Philadelphia, but by Francis Bailey. This title is one of the most desirable works in American constitutional history. Rare book dealer William Reese of New Haven, Connecticut calls The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America "the book which may be considered the Magna Carta of the United States."

Gift to Special Collections from:
The Benjamin Franklin Savings Association, Houston

Call number: ANSPEC JK18 1783aa

The Federalist, on the New Constitution (New York, 1802) is from the call number

Call number: ANSPEC KF4515.F4 1802 v.2

Leaf with engraved bust portrait photograph and facsimile signature of George Washington

 
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