One of the most memorable moments of the Democratic National Convention came when Gold Star dad Khizr Khan called out Donald Trump on his knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. He then offered to loan the Donald his personal copy.
Since then, of course, Trump has thrown criticism back at Khan, inciting a media firestorm and an ongoing barrage of self-inflicted wounds (insulting the parents of someone who died serving his country isn’t generally seen as a solid campaign strategy). But there is one potential positive: Khan’s scolding remarks about Trump’s ignorance regarding our country’s founding document generated a serious spike in sales for pocket-sized Constitutions.
Flying off virtual shelves
According to the Dallas Morning News, the pocket-sized, 52-page version of the 229-year-old document shot to number two on Amazon shortly after the event (it got edged out by the new Harry Potter book). And then the ACLU decided to poke a sharp stick in candidate Trump’s direction by giving out free copies until election day.
The Donald may benefit from taking Khan or the ACLU up on their offers. During a meeting with Congressional Republicans in early July, the Republican nominee assured the assembled members that he’d protect Article XII of the constitution. Which either means he’s like a lot of Americans and not fully up to speed on the document, or he’s planning some additions—because there is no Article XII. In fact, he’d have to add five articles to get there.
If he wasn’t running for President, it would be easy to cut Trump some slack. Americans are stunningly ignorant about the Constitution, which is quite a handy blueprint for the structure of our government. In fact, Americans are a bit clueless about our government in general. A 2016 poll showed, for instance, that about 10 percent of U.S. college students believe Judge Judy serves on the Supreme Court.
It’s too bad, really. As legal documents go, the Constitution is a quick read. Besides being the oldest written constitution of any major government, it’s also the shortest, at a mere 4,400 words.
True, it doesn’t have the pizazz of the Declaration of Independence (which was written 13 years earlier), but it is the supreme law of the land, so if you really want to know what’s what in the U.S. government and have about 15 minutes to spare, reading the Constitution is a great way to while away the time.
Meanwhile, here are a few fun facts about the Constitution, offered in the hope that you’ll want to learn more about the foundational document of our republic—and maybe even inspire you to get a copy.
- Pennsylvania is spelled two different ways in the Constitution. But hey…it’s also misspelled on the Liberty Bell.
- Thanksgiving was actually created to give thanks for…the Constitution.
- Today, however, we give thanks for the Constitution with Constitution Day, which is so popular that even Google isn’t sure if it falls on the 16th or 17th of September.
- Alexander Hamilton was the only member of the New York delegation to sign the Constitution. The other two New York delegates left in a huff, believing the Constitution went way too far.
- Some people think there’s a curse that came along with signing the Constitution. Hamilton, for instance, was killed in a duel (by famous rapper Aaron Burr). A number of other signers died in not-so-nice ways, including Pennsylvania’s Gouveneur Morris, who made a real mess and died treating himself for a kidney stone with a whale bone. This had nothing to do with his state being spelled two different ways in the Constitution.
- The Constitution was hand-written by a clerk named Jacob Shallus. He was paid $30 for his efforts. That $30 would be worth about $2,500 today. Despite being from Pennsylvania, as I’ve said three times now, he spelled his state’s name in two different ways. In his defense, spell check did not exist in 1787. And his handwriting was quite nice.
- Rhode Island was the only state that boycotted the Constitutional Convention. “Scandalous,” remarked George Washington. They were also the last state to ratify the document, waiting until 1790. By then, the Constitution had already taken effect, leaving Rhode Island fearful of being a foreign entity amidst the United States.