Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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August 8th
The Father of the Constitution
On this day in 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were in the midst of the eleventh week of a long, hot summer spent hammering out a new government for the United States. One young delegate from Virginia never missed a session. He sat up front so he could hear every word and take notes on every speech. At the end of each day, he went back to his boardinghouse to read over what had been said and write out new arguments.

The young Virginian was James Madison. A graduate of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), he was a short, slight man with a soft voice. Someone once observed that he seemed “no bigger than half a piece of soap.” But his influence on this country was profound.

Madison had come to Philadelphia with a plan for a central government with three branches. He envisioned a nation where citizens would vote for their representatives. He had spent months studying ancient democracies and republics, and he knew that the strength of the government must come not from harsh laws or armies, but from the people.

That summer, Madison made more than 150 speeches in his soft voice. His fellow delegates sometimes had to shout “Louder!” but when he spoke, they knew he would bring sound reason to the debate. Madison answered questions and proposed solutions. He worked on every detail. At the end of the convention, the new Constitution that the delegates signed largely followed his plan.

Madison spent the rest of his life making sure the Constitution worked. His labors included co-writing the Federalist Papers, authoring the Bill of Rights, and serving as congressman, secretary of state, and the fourth U.S. president. For his ideas and hard work, history remembers him as the Father of the Constitution.

American History Parade
1866
Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) becomes the first queen to visit the U.S.

1876
Thomas Edison receives a patent for the mimeograph, used for a century to make multiple paper copies until the electronic copier took its place.

1974
President Nixon announces he will resign the next day due to the Watergate scandal.

2007
Barbara Morgan becomes the first teacher to safely reach space, aboard the shuttle Endeavor (Christa McAuliffe had died in the 1986 Challenger explosion).
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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