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Constitution Day: September 17, 2005


 Quick Links: Constitution Day Legal Documents | The Constitution and Related Historical Publications | Resources for Educators | Selected Web Sites | Locating Library Materials on the U.S. Constitution in RamCat

page 1 of the Constitution On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. The United States Constitution is the oldest written national constitution still in operation, and many of the nations that have established themselves in the decades since that day in 1787 have turned to this document as a model for their own constitutions. As a document which defines the structure of our Federal government and delineates the rights of the states within the union, and individual citizens within the nation, the Constitution has become a symbol to Americans and to the world of the American government and way of life.

The day is not a federal holiday, but due to a provision added to an appropriations bill in late 2004 by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), teachers, students, and federal executive employees of the United States are all to observe “Constitution Day” this September 17 and every September hereafter with some sort of edifying lesson, program, or distributed materials about our Constitution.

The contents of this web page includes links to those legal documents concerning the establishment of the “Constitution Day” observance. There is a section on the Constitution and related historical publications. Useful resources and web sites for educators and for those people planning observances are also included.

 Constitution Day Legal Documents

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Public Law 108-447.
The Constitution Day provisions appear at 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Section 111). The PDF version of this lengthy public law is available through GPO Access. The Constitution Day language is near the end of the law, in Division J – Other Matters:

SEC. 111. (a) The head of each Federal agency or department shall—
(1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
(2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.

Other provisions concern amending 36 United States Code106 to change the name of the day from “Citizenship Day” to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”

Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year, 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (May 24, 2005).
This notice applies to educational institutions receiving federal funding from the Department of Education. It refers to institutions to web resources available from the National Archives and Library of Congress, and states that “when September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, Constitution Day shall be held during the preceding or following week.”

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 The Constitution and Related Historical Publications

The text of the Constitution and a number of related historical documents are available online from many sources.

FDsys: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation
The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated, encompasses the U.S. Constitution and analysis and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution with in-text annotations of cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.
FDsys provides access to Constitution Annotated editions and supplements from 1992 forward. The volume has been published as a bound edition every ten years, with cumulative updates issued in the intervening years biannually as inserts that address new constitutional case law, primarily from U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The analysis is provided by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress.
All Constitution Annotated files are available on FDsys in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Older files are available in ASCII text format.

Library of Congress: Primary Documents in American History: United States Constitution
The Library of Congress pulls together links to its various online resources, including the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention broadsides collections described below, for this one-stop collection guide. Highlighted sites include A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, featuring the journals of the Constitutional Congress and letters of delegates to Congress and Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Another highlight is the set of digitized volumes from Max Farrand’s The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Farrand’s Records includes the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, and the notes and letters of James Madison and other participants. This site also links to the digitized papers of James Madison from the Library’s Manuscript Division, other historic collections, and a selective bibliography for adult and younger readers.

Library of Congress: Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
Contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Most broadsides are one page in length; others range from 1 to 28 pages. A number of these items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast.
The collection features an early printing of the Constitution. The web presentation “To Form a More Perfect Union” includes a section on Creating a Constitution, which links to the documents—including the 1787 committee draft of the Constitution—within the context of the historical narrative. The site also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections.

Library of Congress (Thomas): The Federalist Papers
The series of essays known as the Federalist Papers was written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison to explain—and to encourage New Yorkers to ratify—the proposed United States Constitution. The essays are often used for guidance in understanding the intentions of those who drafted the Constitution. This HTML version of the Federalist Papers is set up so that each essay can be linked to individually.

National Archives: Charters of Freedom: Constitution of the United States
The Archives presents high resolution images of the fading parchment Constitution and Bills of Rights. (The image files are quite large. For technical tips on using them, see the high resolution downloads page.) This site also features a brief history of the creation of the Constitution, roughly one hundred questions and answers concerning the document and its impact, and biographies of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

United States Senate: Reference: The Constitution
This version places each section of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments alongside a brief and simple explanations.

Yale Avalon Project: The American Constitution: A Documentary Record
The Avalon Project presents HTML versions of early American historical documents arranged under the following headings: Roots of the Constitution; Revolution and Independence; Credentials of the Members of the Federal Convention; The Constitutional Convention; and Ratification and Formation of the Government. In addition to the Constitution, documents include the English Bill of Rights from 1689; original American state constitutions from 1776; variant texts of plans proposed at the Constitutional Convention; and the ratification documents from individual states.

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 Resources For Educators

CQ Press in Context: Celebrating Constitution Day, September 17, 2005
In honor of National Constitution Day (September 17, 2005), CQ Press has devoted a section of the CQ Press in Context web site with free access to documents and analytical content related to the U.S. Constitution. This content includes a ready-to-teach, downloadable lesson plan (“The First Amendment and Protection of Student Rights”) written by CQ Press author Maryam Ahranjani and designed specially for teachers who want to take advantage of Constitution Day as a classroom-learning tool.

GPO: Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
Ben’s Guide serves as the educational component of GPO Access, GPO’s service to provide the official online version of legislative and regulatory information. This site provides learning tools for K-12 students, parents, and teachers. These resources will teach how our government works, the use of the primary source materials of GPO Access, and how one can use GPO Access to carry out their civic responsibilities. The Constitution is covered under the section “Historical Documents” in each grade level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.

Library of Congress: Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadsides Collection
Part of the Library’s American Memory offerings, these digitized collections hold hundreds of documents relating to the work of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. The collection features an early printing of the Constitution. The web presentation “To Form a More Perfect Union” includes a section on Creating a Constitution, which links to the documents—including the 1787 committee draft of the Constitution—within the context of the historical narrative. The site also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections. Note that the American Memory Collections provide a “Document ID” at the bottom of each item record; the URL can be used for linking purposes.

Library of Congress: The Learning Page: The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?
Lesson plan compiled by Claudia Argyres and Jim Smith in 2002 looks at two questions: Was the Constitution an abandonment of the ideals of the American Revolution? and Was the Constitution essential to our survival as a nation? (For Grade 11)

National Archives: Teaching with Documents: Observing Constitution Day
The Archives provides suggestions for teaching activities. “Lessons by Era,” in the left-hand of the page, links to historical incidents from 1754 to present—many of which can be tied to Constitutional principles and amendments.

National Constitution Center: Constitution Day: September 17th 2005: Educator & Student Resource
This website is a marketplace of educational materials and programming tools for use on Constitution Day. The Educator & Student Resource section includes lesson plans such as “I Signed the Constitution,” “America Reads the Constitution,” and “Interactive Constitution” (based on The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk (New York: Hyperion, 2003). Llinks to lesson plans on other organizational web sites are also included.

National Endowment for the Humanities: EDSITEment: The Constitution of the United States
This September 2005 feature highlights lesson plans such as “The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?,” Before and Beyond the Constitution: What Should a President Do?,” “James Madison: Madison Was There,” “The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met” (about Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, William Paterson, and Edmund Randolph), and “Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said.” EDSITEment also includes lesson plans on the Supreme Court, the role of the President, the Bill of Rights, and freedom of speech, among many others.

National Public Radio and New York Times: Justice Learning
The Justice Learning web site is supported by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the New York Times Learning Network and NPR’s Justice Talking show. The site has a special section for Constitution Day, promising “Constitution Day programming made easy.” They will be airing two programs that can be used by any school or group. The Classroom section includes resources covering such topics as separation of powers, federalism, individual rights, and the First Amendment.

Office of Personnel Management: Constitution Initiative
OPM set up this web page “to provide Federal Executive Branch agencies and departments resources to support training of their employees on the U.S. Constitution.” One section describes the Constitution’s Link to the Oath of Office taken by federal employees.

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 Selected Web Sites

Angelo State University: Department of Government: The United States Constitution: September 17, 1787
ASU will be celebrating Constitution Day with an all-day reading of the Constitution. The event takes place at the main intersection in the Houston Harte University Center starting at 8:00 am, Friday, September 16, and goes all day. All students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate. To learn more about our Constitution or to practice reading it people are encouraged to go to Dr. Casey Jones’s “US Constitution Plus” web page.

CQ Press in Context: Celebrating Constitution Day, September 17, 2005
In honor of National Constitution Day (September 17, 2005), CQ Press has devoted a section of the CQ Press in Context web site with free access to documents and analytical content related to the U.S. Constitution. This content includes two ready-to-teach, downloadable lesson plans (“Constitution Day Lesson Plan on Fourth Amendment Rights” and “Constitution Day Lesson Plan on First Amendment and Religion in Schools”) designed especially for teachers who want to take advantage of Constitution Day as a classroom-learning tool. (Each lesson plan has a high school and a college version.)

Dickinson College & Constitution Day 2005 (Carlisle, PA)
This web site is the result of the collaborative efforts of Dickinson College students, faculty, administration, and staff. Dickinson sees the day as an opportunity to honor its namesake, John Dickinson, a signer of the Constitution. The Pennsylvania college has held annual Constitution Day lectures since 1994. Speakers have included Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Kenneth W. Starr. Other founders of the College were members of the Constitutional Convention and/or one of the drafters of the document.

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators: Constitution Day Implementation Guide
A 12-page implementation guide which includes suggested activities, a list of web links, and some broadcast and video resources.

National Constitution Center: Constitution Day: September 17th 2005
This website is a marketplace of educational materials and programming tools for use on Constitution Day.

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 Locating Library Materials on the U.S. Constitution in RamCat

Several Library of Congress subject headings cover various aspects of the Constitution. You can choose to do a “Guided Keyword Search” using the terms “united states” and “constitution” in the subject field and retrieve 138 records (as of September 9, 2005). Or you could choose to use the more controlled method of searching and use Library of Congress subject headings.

The specific subject search United States. Constitution will retrieve a list of subject headings beginning with that phrase, including those assigned to groups of amendments (1st-10th Amendments or 13th-15th Amendments) or to specific amendments (1st, 2nd, 18th, 25th, etc.). Use the subject United States. Constitution. 1st-10th Amendments to locate books and other items on the Bill of Rights.

Some phrases concerning specific aspects of constitutional amendments are also valid subject headings in RamCat. These include Freedom of speech and Freedom of the press. The “right of assembly” is entered under the heading Assembly, Right of. If you want titles on the right to bear arms, use United States. Constitution. 2nd Amendment, or headings such as Gun control. (Works on the legal aspects of gun control are entered under Firearms—Law and legislation.)

The subject Constitutional history—United States retrieves material in the Library’s collections on the history of the Constitution.

If you want to see what publications the Library has on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, use the subject heading United States. Constitutional Convention (1787).

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Compiled: September 2005, Janetta Paschal, Government Documents/Reference Librarian
Updated: August 2015, Antonella Ward, Multimedia Support Services Librarian