Although most people probably don’t know this, Sunday, September 17, was the 236th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by an assembly of delegates that met in Philadelphia. It took sixteen weeks of heated (and I mean that in more ways than one) debate for the assembly to finally agree on the set of laws that would govern our country. Imagine meeting in the middle of summer with no air conditioning and wearing the heavy wool clothes that were the fashion in those days.
The reason these men knew the newly independent country needed a set of rules for governing was that they feared the United States of America was on the brink of collapse. America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, gave the Confederation Congress the power to make rules and request funds from the states, but it had no enforcement powers and couldn’t regulate commerce or print money. The states’ disputes over territory, war pensions, taxation, and trade threatened to tear the country apart.
The result of their meeting was the United States Constitution, made up of a Preamble, seven articles, and ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. The final draft of the document was signed by the delegates, but the Constitution had to be ratified by 2/3 (nine) of the thirteen states. Delaware was the first state to ratify it, and nine months later, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. The four remaining states—Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island—ratified the document over the course of the next two years.
DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapters all over the country celebrate this historic event. On September 17, the Winding Waters chapter (Hernando County) and the Ft. Cooper (Citrus County) chapters of the DAR, along with several members of the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution), came together to celebrate this auspicious anniversary. Members of the public were invited, and the chambers of the Brooksville City Council were almost filled.
In order to be a member of these organizations, one has to trace their ancestry back to the colonial days. Many of the DAR and SAR members dressed in clothing from that period.
Peggy Christie, a 43-year-old member of the DAR, has an ancestor from New England by the name of Peleg Doud, a Revolutionary War soldier. Ms. Christie can trace her ancestry back even further to Henry Doud, who came to America on the “Mayflower.”
Bonnie Ruge has been a DAR member for 25 years. Ms. Ruge traces her ancestry back to Lt. Colonel John Siegfried from Pennsylvania. Unlike many of his German countrymen, who were Hessians and fought on the British side, Siegfried fought on the side of the colonials.
“Learning the history of our country has been one of the most interesting parts of being a member of the DAR,” Ms. Ruge stated.
Suzanne Carvajal, a 15-year member of the DAR, is related to John Green of Virginia. He fought with General Nathaniel Greene, who would later become commander of the Continental Army, in the Southern Theater. In New York, John Green was wounded in battle and became permanently disabled. For his service to his country, Green was deeded a substantial amount of land in Kentucky. He decided to stay in Virginia, so he gave the land to some relatives.
“Being among other DAR sisters who have a common bond has been one of the most satisfying things about being a member of DAR,” Ms. Carvajal remarked.
The ceremony began with retired Army colonel Mike Fulford announcing the trooping of the colors by members of Marine Corps League 708 of Brooksville. Brooksville City Councilman Casey Thieryung and Hernando County Commissioner Jerry Campbell each read proclamations by their respective bodies declaring September 17th – September 23rd Constitution Week.
Susan Gundersen, DAR Constitution Week Chairman, read America’s Creed and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and summarized the story behind the writing of the Constitution.
Carolyn Jordan, First Vice-Regent of the Ft. Cooper Chapter, read a short history of the Liberty Bell and mentioned several interesting points about this iconic symbol of our country.
Hamilton Hanson spoke about the importance of the Constitution, calling it “the most perfect governing document anywhere in the world because it can amend itself,” referring to the fact that through the more than two hundred years since its ratification, the Constitution has been amended to reflect the changing times and the progress of the United States. These amendments included abolishing slavery, granting women the right to vote, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol, and then another amendment reversing that amendment. Hanson also pointed out that the United States is a republic and not a democracy, as many people believe, and explained the differences.
Prior to the ringing of the bells, the entire assembly read the Preamble to the Constitution. Afterward, Dawn McGee read “The Fortress Stone,” an inspirational piece whose theme was the importance of guarding our liberties from tyranny. Reverend Jack Morgan read George Washington’s Prayer for National Unity, in which Washington asked that God keep the United States under His protection and “incline the hearts of its citizens to educate a brotherly affection and love for one another.”
Colonel Fulford read a moving piece entitled “It is the Veteran,” elaborating on what veterans have done for all of us.
It stated, in part, “It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion;… it is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial…It is the veteran who salutes the flag…serves under the flag…so the protestors can burn the flag.”
At precisely 4 pm, everyone rang bells for one minute to commemorate this historic occasion. Some people brought their own bells, while others rang small bells provided by the DAR. The organization also handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution to the people assembled there.
Attending this event gave me a broader knowledge of the Constitution and a deeper understanding of the impact this document has had on our citizens. The one point that was most emphatic is that the Constitution is a living set of guidelines that has changed as our country has changed and will continue to change in order to make our country a better place in which to live.