The Constitution is our most endearing document, but not everything you read online about the Constitution is accurate! Here are some of the top myths about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers still out there on blogs and websites.
be clear, these myths are not about interpretations of the
Constitution; they center on people and events related to the founding
Myth one: The Constitution was written on hemp paper
The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written on
parchment. The point of debate is that some working drafts of the
documents might have been composed on paper made from hemp, which was
widely used in that time period.
Myth two: Thomas Jefferson signed the Constitution
Thomas Jefferson didn’t sign the Constitution. This is the
most-popular myth at the National Constitution Center, especially when
guests enter our hall of statutes
of the Constitution’s signers – and ask where the Jefferson statue is.
In 1787, Jefferson was in Paris as the United States’ envoy, and he
missed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
Myth three: John Adams also signed the Constitution
Like Jefferson, Adams was in service for his country overseas when
the Constitution was signed. He was in London as the United States
minister to Great Britain.
Myth four: The same Founders who wrote the Declaration wrote the Constitution
Only six Founders signed both the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution: George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George
Read, James Wilson and Roger Sherman.
Myth five: The Constitution was signed by 39 people
It is true that there were 39 delegate signatures on the Constitution
on September 17, 1787, but the convention’s secretary, William Jackson,
also signed the document. Jackson was picked over Benjamin Franklin’s
grandson as the convention secretary.
Myth six: The Constitution says “All Men Are Created Equal”
That is in the Declaration of Independence. The original Constitution
avoided the issue of slavery, counting each slave as three-fifths of a
person to determine representation in Congress. The 13th and 14th Amendments ratified after the Civil War made the “Three-Fifths Compromise” obsolete.
Myth seven: The Constitution established a democracy in the United States
The Constitution actually established a republic, as stated in Article IV, Section 4.
After the 1787 convention, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of
government the new document endorsed: a monarchy or a republic. “A
Republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin responded.
A democracy, in general terms, was seen as government by the majority
of the people. A republic, also in general terms, added safeguards like
checks and balances that ensure that a representative government
guaranteed individual rights. Over the years, the use of the words
became somewhat interchangeable, and their true meanings are still
Myth eight: An enthusiastic country quickly embraced the Constitution
After the delegates signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787,
five states quickly signed it. But then the ratification process slowed
down as the anti-Federalists, who feared a strong central government and
demanded a Bill of Rights, bitterly fought the Constitution’s
ratification at state conventions. It took until June 21, 1788 for New
Hampshire, as the ninth state approving ratification, to make the
Constitution a reality.
Myth nine: The convention delegates were unanimous in approving the document
When the Constitutional Convention ended in 1787, 42 delegates
gathered at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) for the
signing ceremony. Among that group, 38 delegates signed the document,
with George Read also signing for John Dickinson, who was ill. Three
Founders, Elbridge Gerry, George Mason and Edmund Randolph, refused to
sign the Constitution, unhappy with the final document for various
Myth ten: All 13 states took part in writing the Constitution
There were 13 states in 1787, but Rhode Island didn’t send a
delegation to Philadelphia. In fact, Rhode Island feared it would be
dominated by the new federal government and thus rejected ratification
of the Constitution in 1788. It finally approved the Constitution on May
29, 1790, by a margin of two votes.