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Constitution Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

The oldest delegate to the Constitutional Convention was Benjamin Franklin, who was 81 years old in 1787. The youngest was 27-year-old Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, perhaps the two most critical figures in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, were 30 and 36, respectively.1

During the 1920s and '30s, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were kept on public display at the Library of Congress. In 1952, after negotiations were completed between the Librarian of Congress and the Archivist of the United States, the Constitution and the Declaration were both transferred to a more suitable location in the newly built National Archives building. The transfer itself had become considerably more complex than it was back in 1920 when the Librarian of Congress simply drove the founding documents across Washington in his Ford Model T truck. By 1952, by contrast, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence "were placed in helium-filled cases, enclosed in wooden crates, laid on mattresses in an armored Marine Corps personnel carrier, and escorted by ceremonial troops, two tanks, and four servicemen carrying submachine guns down Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues to the National Archives."2

On 6 August 1787, the Constitutional Convention's Committee of Detail proposed a draft of the Constitution in which the president would serve a seven-year term without possibility of reelection, to be elected by a majority of both legislative houses. It added that the executive should be addressed as "Your Excellency," since there was no small amount of anxiety over how to address this unprecedented phenomenon in Western society: a democratically elected leader who was neither royalty ("Your Highness") nor deity ("Your Holiness").3

About half of the Constitutional Convention's delegates were slaveowners.4

During World War II, the original copy of the Constitution was moved for safekeeping to the famous federal gold depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The Constitution is about 4,400 words long. The original handwritten copy fit on four big sheets of paper. The document is both the oldest and shortest constitution used by any representative government in the world today. By way of comparison, the Constitution of India, the world's longest, has about 117,000 words; that means it's more than 25 times as long as the Constitution of the United States.

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