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A week to treasure the U.S. Constitution

Robert Houk • Updated Sep 20, 2018 at 3:01 PM

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Preamble of the U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution specifically enumerates the rights of the every citizen of this nation. It’s no wonder that so many Americans consider the Constitution a sacred document that deserves a place of reverence on their home’s bookshelf alongside the Holy Bible and the family photo album.

It’s one of the oldest documents of its type still in use. The Constitution’s declarations of freedom have in 4,400 words provided hope and inspiration to our country in times of war, economic distress and social change.

Politicians often quote the Constitution as a moral compass for our government.

This is Constitution Week, which was created by Congress in 1955 at the urging of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The idea was to set aside one week each year to observe the signing of the Constitution.

It is also a time to emphasize the responsibility every American has to protect and defend the Constitution.

Northeast Tennessee has a direct tie to one of the signers of the Constitution. William Blount, who was a delegate from North Carolina when he placed his signature on the document, would later serve as governor of the Southwest Territory.

He spent his first years in that role at Rocky Mount, the first capital of the territory.

When the Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not mention some of the personal liberties we cherish today. Those would be added in 1791 with the Bill of Rights.

Included among these are rights outlined in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

And of course there is the Second Amendment, which states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The national census is a vital mandate spelled out in the Consitution. It’s the tool used to draw representative districts and to fairly distribute government resources.

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution reads in part:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers. ... The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

Reapportionment does not stop with the redrawing of congressional districts. Numbers from the 2020 Census will be used by state officials to realign legislative districts in the General Assembly. Census data also will be used to redraw County Commission districts and voting precincts.

In addition to providing a population count, the census offers valuable demographic information on race and income levels. This information will be used by state and federal governments to allocate grant funding to local jurisdictions.

An undercount of its citizens can cost county or city valuable federal grants for water/sewer, transportation and public health improvements. Like it or not, the census is crucial to seeing that citizens get a fair return on the tax dollars they send to Washington, D.C.

There are many Americans who don’t trust the federal government to use the information responsibly. Others simply don’t think it is any of the government’s business to know how many adults reside in their households.

Such shortsightedness, however, ignores the many benefits of the census when it comes to teling us who we are and where we are going as a nation. And as genealogists know all too well, census data is also crucial in helping us discover where we came from.

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