Colors of the Constitution [Updated]

 

ConstitutionWhat are the colors of the Constitution? Tan, perhaps “buff,” and black, oh, and white and red. The tan color comes from the untanned but soaked, stretched, scraped smooth and dried animal hide. The black, fading to grey with the centuries, comes from the iron gall ink. 

The actual name of this federal minor holiday, marked with ceremonies but not designated for time off from work or school, is “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

This commemoration had its origin in 1940, when Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in May for the public recognition of all who had attained the status of American citizenship. The designation for this day was “I Am An American Day.”

In 1952 Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17 to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States.” The day was still designated as “Citizenship Day” and retained its original purpose of recognizing all those who had attained American citizenship. This law urged civil and educational authorities of states, counties, cities and towns to make plans for the proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.”

In 2004 under Senator Byrd’s urging, Congress changed the designation of this day to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” and added two new requirements in the commemoration of this Day. The first is that the head of every federal agency provide each employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution on September 17th. The second is that each educational institution which receives Federal funds should hold a program for students every September 17th.

Parchment is not leather, although they both start with the same basic material. Leather is achieved by a hide tanning process, involving tannin, while parchment is made with lime, a base:

Parchment is made by soaking an animal skin (usually from a goat, sheep or calf) in lime and then stretching it on a frame, scraping it to remove excess tissue and allowing it to dry under tension. During this process, the collagen of the skin is rearranged, but not chemically altered. The result is a material that is very smooth and hard, and also very sensitive to changes in humidity. Since it has been soaked in a solution with a high pH, it is basic.

Inks used in the late 18th Century were different from modern formulations. They were suited to the writing tools of the time, but would likely clog modern pens.

The US Constitution, like the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation – and virtually any other document of its era, was written in iron gall ink. It is a purple or brown-black ink made from iron salts, and tannins derived from vegetable sources – galls (found most commonly on oak trees) that are caused by chemicals injected by the larva of certain species of wasp.

[…]

Due to its solubility, iron gall ink can penetrate the surface of paper or parchment, making it very difficult to erase. In addition, it converts to a ferric ( Iron (III) )-tannate complex, which is darker (thus even easier to read with added contrast), and not soluble, which makes it excellent as an archival ink as it can’t be washed away.

So, we’re clear on the tan and black, or maybe brown-black. Now what about white and red? No, we are not off into symbolism, this is all quite literal. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the U.S.S. Constitution:

Notice the white stripe marking the line of the gun ports. Look carefully at the waterline; that is a red stripe, giving way to the natural wood color towards the keel. The Navy has a great video on the construction and history of what is now the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Like her namesake, the ship has undergone periodic repair. Unlike her namesake, the ship was never fundamentally altered, as was done with the Progressive amendments, making senators no longer accountable to state legislatures, and letting Congress reach into every worker’s paycheck to fund their ideas.

While the White House got the proclamations ready for President Trump’s signature several days in advance the first two years, they seem to have fallen down on the job in his third year, with nothing on the White House website as of the evening of September 16. On the morning of September 17, the White House website was updated [emphasis added]:


Presidential Proclamation on Constitution Day, Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, 2019
Issued on: September 16, 2019

Two hundred thirty-two years ago, the Framers of the Constitution met in Philadelphia and set our country on a bold course toward forming a more perfect Union. John Adams called the drafting of the Constitution “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen,” and since its ratification, this exceptional document has remained the bedrock of the rule of law for our Nation. On this day and during this week, we celebrate the signing of the Constitution and the American citizens who have devoted their lives to implementing the Framers’ vision for the world’s grandest and most successful experiment in self-government.

The Founders understood that a self-governing republic requires a free and empowered citizenry. We are therefore grateful that our Constitution is designed, first and foremost, to secure liberty. Through a system of limited Government and checks and balances, the Constitution limits the ability of the State to become an obstacle to human flourishing, while simultaneously enabling the State to serve order, protect rights, and provide public goods.

Since taking office, I have nominated two Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who have exhibited a proven commitment to the Constitution. I have also nominated and the Senate has confirmed 150 other Federal lower court judges who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and the laws of our Nation. With appropriate respect for the genius of the Framers and in accordance with the rule of law, our Nation’s Federal judges should always strive to interpret our laws, including our Constitution as written, regardless of any political or policy preferences they may hold in their capacity as citizens.

The drafters of our Constitution were committed not to a king or Government but to a belief in the promise of America as a free and prosperous society. To fulfill that promise, they designed a Government and a Constitution that could withstand the inevitable demagoguery, passions, and exigencies that would seek to unmake us as a people. And though the durability of our Constitution has been tested through crises and wars, it has endured. Today and throughout this week, we recognize the magnitude of the Constitution and the unparalleled success of the system of Government it helped create.

The Congress, by joint resolution of February 29, 1952 (36 U.S.C. 106), designated September 17 as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” and by joint resolution of August 2, 1956 (36 U.S.C. 108), requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 of each year as “Constitution Week.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 17, 2019, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and September 17, 2019, through September 23, 2019, as Constitution Week. On this day and during this week, we celebrate the citizens and the Constitution that have made America the greatest Nation this world has ever known. In doing so, we recommit ourselves to the enduring principles of the Constitution and thereby “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
sixteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

White House Logo

Published in Group Writing
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There are 6 comments.

  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    This reflection on two famous Constitutions is part of our Group Writing Series under the September 2019 Group Writing Theme: “Autumn Colors.” There are plenty of dates available. Lots of room folks. Step right up and try your hand! Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #1
    • September 17, 2019, at 2:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Al French, sad sack Member

    Thanks for the reminder. Flag’s up.

    • #2
    • September 17, 2019, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. MarciN Member

    I was “called up” to serve on a jury today. I was in the jury pool room from 8:30 to 12:30. Finally the gracious judge came in and told us that she had done us all a favor and imposed a continuance on the civil case we were to hear. She said that it was clear to her that the lawyers were not ready. I said, “You are our favorite judge.” Everyone laughed and applauded her. It was a fun moment. We then all went home.

    I live in a state that has the one-day, one-trial jury obligation. There’s an interesting history of the one-day, one-trial jury duty commitment. In the little movie we watched, the judge said that Massachusetts instituted this procedure in July 1982:

    Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief–and just about every other adult resident of Massachusetts–now are equal when it comes to being called for jury service.

    While it is unlikely that people from each of these diverse walks of life will be sitting on the same panel deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused citizen, the possibility exists under a newly signed Bay State law.

    Besides ending all exemptions for professional, business, family, and sundry other reasons, the measure provides for a computerized juror-selection process. Those called will be required to serve one day or one trial, whichever is longer.

    In shifting to a random system based on census rather than voter registration, no adult citizen can escape. Gone are not only the automatic exemptions but also the involvement of local officials in seeing to it that friends who do not wish to serve are accommodated.

    In the past this situation has narrowed the makeup of juries, with many panels comprised of retirees, low-income blue- and white-collar workers, and the unemployed.

    Although the involvement of a much larger and considerably more diverse group in the administration of justice is not new, this is the first time it has been adopted on a statewide basis.

    In Massachusetts, the court goes out of its way to ensure that the jury pool is comfortable. They attend to every little detail, from opening the windows and offering coffee and snacks to keeping us informed at all times. Every juror is greeted with a smile and a friendly word of hello. The check-in process is smooth and free of any and all irritations. And I was so touched the judge’s coming down to our room to talk to us personally and respectfully and to thank us for our time.

    The evolution of the jury system demonstrates vividly our country’s continuous commitment to affording our fellow citizens a fair civil or criminal trial.

    As I was sitting there this morning, I was reading this wonderful post about Constitution Day and its remarkable history. I felt so very proud of us. :-)

    Thank you for this great post. :-)

    • #3
    • September 17, 2019, at 6:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I was “called up” to serve on a jury today. I was in the jury pool room from 8:30 to 12:30. Finally the gracious judge came in and told us that she had done us all a favor and imposed a continuance on the civil case we were to hear. She said that it was clear to her that the lawyers were not ready. I said, “You are our favorite judge.” Everyone laughed and applauded her. It was a fun moment. We then all went home.

    I live in a state that has the one-day, one-trial jury obligation. There’s an interest history. In the little movie we watched, the judge said that Massachusetts instituted this procedure in July 1982:

    Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief – and just about every other adult resident of Massachusetts – now are equal when it comes to being called for jury service.

    While it is unlikely that people from each of these diverse walks of life will be sitting on the same panel deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused citizen, the possibility exists under a newly signed Bay State law.

    Besides ending all exemptions for professional, business, family, and sundry other reasons, the measure provides for a computerized juror-selection process. Those called will be required to serve one day or one trial, whichever is longer.

    In shifting to a random system based on census rather than voter registration , no adult citizen can escape. Gone are not only the automatic exemptions, but also the involvement of local officials in seeing to it that friends who do not wish to serve are accommodated.

    In the past this situation has narrowed the makeup of juries, with many panels comprised of retirees, low-income blue- and white-collar workers, and the unemployed.

    Although the involvement of a much larger and considerably more diverse group in the administration of justice is not new, this is the first time it has been adopted on a statewide basis.

    In Massachusetts, the court goes out of its way to ensure that the jury pool is comfortable. They attend to every little detail, from opening windows and offering coffee and snacks to keeping us informed at all times. Every juror is greeted with a smile and a friendly word of hello. The check-in process is smooth and free of any and all irritations. And I was so touched the judge’s coming down to our room to talk to us personally and respectfully and to thank us for our time.

    The evolution of the jury system demonstrates vividly our country’s continuous commitment to affording our fellow citizens a fair civil or criminal trial.

    As I was sitting there this morning, I was reading this wonderful post about Constitution Day and its remarkable history. I felt so very proud of us. :-)

    Thank you for this great post. :-)

    What a cool set of insights. How about an OP on your experience?

    • #4
    • September 17, 2019, at 7:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Skyler Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown: Unlike her namesake, the ship was never fundamentally altered

    Sadly, not true. She was modified to be a barracks for quite a long time.

    Having a written Constitution makes it easier to return to what it once written rather than try to start from scratch again. We would have never built a replacement USS Constitution from scratch, but having the structure still partially intact allowed us to restore it.

    Perhaps there’s a lesson therein.

    • #5
    • September 18, 2019, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. TGR9898 Coolidge

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Having a written Constitution makes it easier to return to what it once written rather than try to start from scratch again. We would have never built a replacement USS Constitution from scratch, but having the structure still partially intact allowed us to restore it.

    Perhaps there’s a lesson therein.

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Penn & Teller routines:

     

    • #6
    • September 18, 2019, at 2:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes