What’s the Difference Between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution?
Don’t be embarrassed, Neighbor! Lots of people ask that question -- or at least they think it. At Primerrily, we think a true sign of intelligence is asking a question. We’re glad you clicked so you could find out the answer, share it with your kids, and be ready to win this game.
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was drafted (fancy word for words written, words erased, more words written), ratified (fancy word for voted /agreed on), and signed. This document was the culmination of years of economic, political, and emotional frustration with Great Britain and the Royal Crown. It was a message to the King, to the colonists living in America, and the world at large to announce that America would no longer be a colony of England, but rather a new, independent country composed of thirteen states. It was a rallying cry to would-be soldiers, potential international allies, and colonists, convincing them of their right to revolution. The Declaration of Independence is America’s birthday.
In 1787 -- yes, 11 years later -- delegates (fancy word for “line leaders”) from 12 states (the 13th state of Rhode Island was being a party pooper and didn’t send anyone) got together in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. There they spent a long hot summer (without air conditioning) in Independence Hall writing and debating what would become our Constitution. If the Declaration of Independence was America’s birthday, the Constitution was like America getting its driver’s license. Metaphorically speaking, it laid out where government could and could not drive, what government could and could not do on the road, and who got to be the drivers of the government.
Then the delegates had to take the Constitution back to their home states for approval. 39 delegates from 12 states (all but Rhode Island) approved and signed the Constitution. Coincidentally, Rhode Island’s ratification came after the new federal government commenced on April 1, 1789 (anyone else notice that the federal government started on what we now recognize as April Fool’s Day? I digress…). The Constitution has been in operation since 1789, and it is now the world longest surviving written charter of government. High-five to America! Americans have amended (fancy word for “updated”) it several times since then, which is a topic Primerrily will cover later so keep coming back, Neighbor!
Now, how to share the concepts of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution with your kids? Ask them to declare some of their independences. For example, brushing teeth, buckling up, or writing their own name... anything they are proud to do on their own. And check out Primerrily's Constitution Day post for fun ways to share and celebrate our Constitution!
Suffice it to say, BOTH are important pieces of paper that have impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans -- and those yet to be born!