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May 18, 2012 (San Diego) -- San Diegans Richard Lederer and Caroline McCullagh are the proud parents of a bouncing baby book, American Trivia: What We All Should Know About U.S. History, Culture & Geography (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2012). Over a span of a year, the co-authors will share with you their journey through American history. You can order inscribed and signed copies of the book by writing to


The Supreme Law of Our Land 

The doors and windows of Independence Hall in Philadelphia are closed, protecting the men from the curiosity of those passing by outside. Not a breath of air stirs through the room. Flies buzz in lazy circles. The temperature is eighty-seven and the humidity is high. Sweat beads on faces.
All around, pairs of men sit at small tables. Some write. The soft scratches of their quill pens disturb neither the concentration of those who sit and think nor those who chat with their neighbors. All stop what they’re doing and turn toward the front of the room as the president of the convention stands. George Washington begins to speak. “Gentlemen, let us continue with our discussion. Dr. Franklin, I believe you have the floor.”
If only we could have been there to experience that important milestone in the creation of our nation. The Constitutional Convention seems so static when we read about it. In fact, it was alive with passionate debate as the delegates hammered out the details of our future. By mid June 1787,  it became clear that, rather than amending the existing Articles of Confederation, forged in 1781 to establish a federal government, the convention would build an entirely new frame of government.
Central government versus states' rights; small state versus large state; slaveholding state versus free state; how to handle public debt, tax collection, trade, and law and order; relationships with foreign governments and with our own Native Americans—all these controversies had to be addressed. The result was a model of cooperative statesmanship and creative compromise.
Fifty-six men attendedthe Constitutional Convention, representing Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. Rhode Island chose not to send delegates.
The Convention began May 25, 1787. On September 17, 39 of the men in attendance signed our Constitution. Washington, as president of the convention, signed first. Then came the representatives of the various states. They understood the importance of what they had wrought, forging a document that begins: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution; On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth. The Constitution was now the law of the land.
The Constitution of the United States is the oldest written constitution in use in the world. Although we have amended the document twenty-seven times, we the people of the United States have never found it necessary to call for a second Constitutional Convention in all the years since.
Over the years, the engrossed parchment on which the Constitution is inscribed lived in several different places. In 1952, our Constitution was driven in an armored tank under military guard from the Library of Congress to the National Archives, where it remains in a shrine in the rotunda, alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.


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