Today, the Constitution Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers 228 years ago when the men of the Convention signed their names and passed the first document to the people of the states to ratify.
In our history, several documents remember the events of that day.
First, from Farrand’s Records for September 17, 1787:
Read the engrossed constitution. Altered the representation in the house of representatives from 40 to thirty thousand.
Dr. Franklin put a paper into Mr Willsons hand to read containing his reasons for assenting to the constitution. It was plain, insinuating persuasive — and in any event of the system guarded the Doctor’s fame.
Mr Randolp Mr Mason and Mr Gerry declined signing–The other members signed–
Being opposed to many parts of the system I make a remark why I signed it and mean to support it.
- 1sly I distrust my own judgement, especially as it is opposite to the opinion of a majority of gentlemen whose abilities and patriotism are of the first cast; and as I have had already frequent occasions to be convinced that I have not always judged right.
- 2dly Alterations may be obtained, it being provided that the concurrence of 2/3 of the Congress may at any time introduce them.
- 3dly Comparing the inconveniences and the evils which we labor under and may experience from the present confederation, and the little good we can expect from it — with the possible evils and probable benefits and advantages promised us by the new system, I am clear that I ought to give it all the support in my power.
Philada. 17 Sepr. 1787 James McHenry.
Major Jackson Secry. to carry it to Congress — Injunction of secrecy taken off. Members to be provided with printed copies — adjourned sine die — Gentn. of Con. dined together at the City Tavern.
Second, from Elliott’s Debates:
Close of the General Convention.
The engrossed Constitution being read, it was moved that the Constitution be signed by the members in the following, as a convenient form:–
“Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the states present, the 17th September, &c. In witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.”
It was moved to reconsider the clause declaring that “the number of representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand;” which passed in the affirmative.
On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled in order to be signed,–all the states answered, “Ay.”
On the question to agree to the above form of signing, it passed in the affirmative.
Yeas: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, 10. Divided: South Carolina, 1.
It was moved that the Journal, and other papers of the Convention, be deposited with the president; which passed in the affirmative.
Yeas: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, 10. Nay: Maryland, 1.
The president having asked what the Convention meant should be done with the Journal, it was resolved, nem. con., “That he retain the Journal and other papers, subject to the order of the Congress, if ever formed under this Constitution.”
The members proceeded to sign the Constitution; and the Convention then dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die.
Third, from the Journals of the Continental Congress, In Convention September 17, 1787:
Sir. We have now the honor to submit to the consideration of the United States in Congress Assembled, that Constitution which has appeared to us the most adviseable.
The friends of our Country have long seen and desired, that the power of making war, peace and treaties, that of levying money and regulating commerce, and the correspondent executive and judicial authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general government of the Union: but the impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men is evident. Hence results the necessity of a different organization.
It is obviously impracticable in the foederal government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests.
In all our deliberations on this subject we kept steadily in our view, that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude, than might have been otherwise expected; and thus the Constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.
That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not perhaps to be expected, but each will doubtless consider, that had her interests been alone consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is as liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish
With great respect We have the honor to be
Sir Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and humble servts. George Washington, President.
By Unanimous Order of the Convention.
His Excellency The President of Congress.
The Constitution Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows against an artist’s image of the signing of the document on September 17, 1787.