10 Myths About the U.S. Constitution Most Americans Believe
Not everything you’ve read about the U.S. Constitution is totally accurate. Here are the most common myths—and what the document really says.
The Constitution is on hemp paper
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The Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, are on parchment, not hemp paper. According to the National Constitution Center, the myth stems from the fact that some of the unofficial, working drafts of both documents might have been on paper made from hemp since it was a common paper-type during that time. Here are other facts about America you never learned in school.
The Constitution has 39 signatures
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams signed the Constitution
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Both Jefferson and Adams were out of the country, so neither signed the Constitution. Jefferson was in France and Adams was in Great Britain at the time of the Convention. These are the presidential “facts” that aren’t true.
The same signatures are on both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
The documents only have six names in common—George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, James Wilson, and Roger Sherman, the U.S. National Archives reports. These are the reasons why the American flag is even cooler than you thought.
The Constitution established an American democracy
The Constitution created a republic, not a democracy. Although in both cases the people elect the government, the elected party under a republic has checks and balances. Someone asked Benjamin Franklin whether the delegates at the Constitutional Convention inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia had created a monarchy or a republic. His response? “A republic, if you can keep it,” he said.
All 13 states participated in writing the Constitution
Although there were 13 states in 1787, Rhode Island didn’t send a delegation to Philadelphia. The small state thought the new federal government would dominate them. The state even rejected the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 but finally approved it in 1790—by two votes, per the National Constitution Center.
The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution
Presidents can’t propose, ratify, or veto an amendment. Although the president can’t technically introduce one, he can lobby on behalf of those he supports, and he can sign them as a witness. According to the U.S. National Archives, Congress or a constitutional convention propose amendments. Here are the everyday things U.S. presidents aren’t allowed to do while in office.
The Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to declare laws unconstitutional
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The Constitution doesn’t actually mention judicial review. Even though it is not explicitly in the document, the founding fathers anticipated the adoption of the practice well before the adoption of the Constitution. Plus, the importance of judicial review is in The Federalist Papers.
The Constitution explicitly states there is a separation of Church and State
No, you won’t find the phrase, “separation of Church and State,” in the Constitution. That said, Article VI of the Constitution grants that, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Similarly, the First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Those statements, plus Supreme Court rulings in cases such as Everson v. Board of Education, do separate Church and State.
The Constitution ensures your right to vote
The Constitution has lots of language detailing the reasons why you can’t be denied the right to vote. Meaning, unlike free speech, the Constitution never really ensures your right to vote—it only states the particular reasons why you can’t be denied. Therefore, withholding the right to vote is OK, so long as the reasoning doesn’t conflict with the Constitution. For example, you can’t be denied the right to vote because of gender or a lack of poll tax payment. But 21 states, such as California and New York, currently deny felons the right to vote while incarcerated or on probation. Next, check out the messed up history facts you didn’t learn in school.