By Carol Marsh
GREENVILLE — After last week’s executive order threatening private employers with hefty fines if they fail to comply with the federal “vaccine mandate,” the issue of individual citizen’s rights, as protected in the Bill of Rights and enshrined in the United States Constitution, once again has captivated the minds of those who quest after a “more perfect” union.
Much like today, those in attendance at the Constitutional Convention, from May to September 1787, had strong differing opinions about its creation and adoption. Of the original 13 states, tiny Rhode Island was the first to distrust the idea of “big government,” and refused to send delegates to the Convention. While North Carolina did send delegates, it was among the last two states to ratify the Constitution, relentless in the call for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights, waiting until 1790.
Founders like Virginian Patrick Henry refused the invitation to attend because he, “…smelt a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward the monarchy.” Some have speculated the “rat in question” was Alexander Hamilton.
Of the 41 delegates present, a majority had served with Washington in the Revolution. 39 eventually signed the document, allowing it to move forward toward ratification; however, three outspoken delegates refused to sign (George Mason, Elbridge Gerry and Edmund Randolph), citing that the document lacked protections for state sovereignty. Of the three, George Mason of Virginia refused to sign , arguing that it lacked a citizen’s Bill of Rights – a position which frustrated the Constitution’s chief architect, James Madison.
Although Madison argued against its inclusion initially, strong independent voices from friends, like fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson and others, persuaded him that a Bill of Rights was not only important, but vital in safeguarding against tyrannical government overreach.
“A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against any government on earth, general or particular, and what no government should refuse, or rest on inference,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison from Paris in December 1787.
Taking a cue from Britain’s Magna Carta as well as George Mason’s own Virginia Declaration of Rights (and other documents), Madison introduced the Bill of Rights in Congress on June 8, 1789, and it was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791.
As Americans celebrate Constitution Day (Sept. 17) and Constitution Week (Sept. 17 to 23), we honor the 234th anniversary this remarkable and resilient document, both in Washington D.C. and here, in Darke County.
For several years, the Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution have honored this special day and week by planning and promoting various Constitution-themed activities, to encourage residents of all ages to take an active interest in learning more about the history and legacy of the American Revolution.
Fort Greenville Chapter DAR will be present at the annual signing of a Constitution Day Proclamation at the Greenville City Hall on Friday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m. (all are invited to attend). In addition, the Fort GreeneVille Chapter DAR has created a month-long display at the Garst Museum, located at 205 N. Broadway in Greenville, and has purchased new children’s books about the Constitution to be given to the Mississinawa, Ansonia, Versailles, Greenville, Tri-Village, Arcanum, and Franklin-Monroe school libraries. An open meeting of the Fort GreeneVille DAR will be Tues., Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. for the “After Darke DAR – The Big Picture” event at the Darke County Extension Office Meeting Room.
In addition, the Greenville Church of the Brethren, located at 421 Central Avenue, Greenville, Ohio 45331, will be offering a 12-session course on the U.S. Constitution, available to the public. Produced by the Institute on the Constitution, classes will be taught by Keith Threewits on Sunday afternoons, beginning on Sept. 26, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The course is free; however, there is a cost for the student workbook which is approximately $75 to $85 (Couples can share a workbook). The course focuses on primary source materials in understanding the origin and development of the Constitution, from its creation by the Founders, to its application in today’s society. To inquire more or to register for this relevant and timely course, please contact Ron Sherck 937-564-1176 or [email protected]
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.