Crazy Facts About the U.S. Constitution

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land. Here are five crazy facts you didn’t know about this important document.

Under the U.S. Constitution, You Could Become a Pirate

By the time the Constitution was signed, Benjamin Franklin was so feeble he had to be carried and needed help to sign the final document. Image credit: WikiCommons

While the Federal Government has the power to punish felonies committed by piracy, it can grant someone a letter of marque for someone to become a privateer under Article 1, Section 8. Being granted this license means you could spy on foreign ships, steal from them or even capture them, but the eye patch and Jolly Roger are not supplied. A rumor floating around during World War II was that the Goodyear Blimp was granted the right to hunt for Japanese submarines, but it was just a rumor and never substantiated.

The President Might Have Been Called Something Else

John Dickinson, who was a Quaker, argued that slavery should be outlawed at the Constitutional Convention, but this provision was not included in the final document. Image credit: WikiCommons

The title “President of the United States” wasn’t the only suggestion when it came to the debate by the Constitutional Convention on what to call the head of the executive branch. Some of the other suggestions were “Exalted Highness,” “Chief Magistrate” and “Elected Highness.” Because Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution says titles of nobility are a no-no, “President” seemed a good and safe name to call the head of the executive branch.

Patrick Henry Refused to Be a Delegate

Patrick Henry, who is remembered for his statement, “Give me liberty or give me death,” was an elected delegate to attend the Constitutional Convention, but refused to participate, saying that he “smelt a rat.” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams weren’t present, and of those that were, John Hancock, who scrawled his name in huge letters of the Declaration of Independence. Samuel Adams did not attend the convention either. So the final version of the Constitution lacked the input of some great men.

The Constitution Isn’t Free of Grammatical Errors

Even though Americans love the U.S. Constitution, anyone would have to admit that the spelling, phrasing and punctuation aren’t what is used today. This is because it was written when English had not been standardized, so Pennsylvania is spelled several different ways, British spellings are used, and mistakes were made. William Hickey, a clerk in the U.S. Senate, noticed all the errors in words and punctuations and corrected them in the 1840s, and the corrected version was published in 1847.

Not All of the Delegates Signed the Constitution

Thirty-nine of the delegates ended up signing the Constitution, while 42 delegates attended the meetings. Three of the delegates refused to sign because there was no bill of rights that added protections for ordinary citizens in the new country. These were George Mason of Virginia, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and Edmund Randolph of Virginia.