14 Essential Talking Points for the Constitution Enthusiast

Because you never know when you'll need to impress Ruth Bader-Ginsberg

1. In an early draft, a Senate committee requested that the president respectfully be referred to as "His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of Their Liberties." (Or, for short, HHTPOTUSOAPOTL.)

2. In a move that confirmed the framers' genius, the idea was canned quickly by the House of Representatives.

3. The lovely penmanship you see on the original parchment came from the hand of an assistant clerk named Jacob Shallus. He received $30 for his troubles.

4. At 4,343 words including the signatures, the United States Constitution is one of the shortest constitutions of any major government in the world.

5. India's constitution consists of more than 117,000 words, roughly 25 times longer.

6. At the age of 81, Ben Franklin was the oldest delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

7. Franklin also made the best entrances. The elderly statesman traveled to and from the State House in a sedan chair, carried by four prisoners from Philadelphia's Walnut Street Jail.

8. The framers nearly spared us the feeling of constantly being in an election cycle; they almost made the presidency a seven-year term.

9. Then again, it could be worse. The delegates also considered a three-year term. In the end, they chose to split the difference between the Senate (six years) and the House (two years).

10. It's not easy to add an amendment to the Constitution. More than 12,000 amendments have been proposed since 1789, but only 27 have made it all the way through the approval process. That's a success rate of just one in 450!

11. Believe it or not, there's an amendment from 1789 still pending. The measure was intended to specify how the House of Representatives should grow as the country's population grows. Because there was no expiration date on it, it's still eligible for ratification.

12. Of course, sometimes it pays for an amendment to be patient. Article II was 203 years old when it was finally confirmed in 1992. Today it's the 27th Amendment, which delays congressional pay raises until the next session. basically, a Congressman can't say, "I could really use a new house. Let's give ourselves a pay raise, effective Friday."

13. Only two Constitution signers went on to become President of the United States: George Washington and James Madison.

14. Don't strain your eyes looking for Thomas Jefferson's signature. He was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France at the time.


The article above, written by Stacy Conradt, is reprinted with permission from the January-February 2012 issue of mental_floss magazine. Get a subscription to mental_floss and never miss an issue!

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