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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.

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old blank parchment on aged wood background,horizontal

The Constitution is on hemp paper

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 type of paper during that time. Here are 15 other facts about America you never learned in school.

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The Constitution has 39 signatures

Technically, there are 39 delegate signatures on the Constitution. The Convention’s secretary William Jackson, however, also signed the document for authentication. Knew this one already? Test your knowledge with this Constitutional Amendments quiz.

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Thomas Jefferson and John Adams signed the Constitution

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.

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United States Declartion of Independence with vintage flag. July 4th.
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The same signatures are on both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

The two 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 differences between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

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United States Constitution, rolled in a scroll on a vintage American flag and rustic wooden board

The Constitution established an American democracy

The Constitution created a republic, not a democracy. Although in both cases the people elect the government, under a republic the elected party under 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.

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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. Apparently not one state thoroughly proof-read it, though—here are 13 grammar errors found in the Constitution.

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Law concept. Judge's gavel in courtroom library.

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, they can lobby on behalf of those they support, and sign them as a witness. According to the U.S. National Archives, Congress or a constitutional convention propose amendments. Here’s what happens if a President refuses to leave office.

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The Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to declare laws unconstitutional

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 Supreme Court Justices’ lifetime appointments probably come from the Constitution, though.

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Brown cross on the Bible on a wooden background. Holy book.
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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. Check out these other facts and figures from the Constitution.

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Hand of a person casting a vote into the ballot box during elections

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 Minnesota and New York, currently deny felons the right to vote while incarcerated and until after their parole or probation has ended. Now that you know what facts to believe, find out what happens within the first 100 days of a new President taking office.


Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is a former staff writer at Reader’s Digest. There’s a 90% chance Emily is drinking tea right now, but when she’s not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts and liking one too many astrology memes.