National Constitution Center

Philadelphia
PA

A few of the 39 signers and three dissenters
at the National Constitution Center

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Opened in 2003, the nonprofit Center “illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires acts of citizenship” by providing a theatrical overview, multimedia history, interactive exhibits, and life-size statues of the signers of the Constitution. Includes periodic special exhibits.

Much of the information is general (for example visitors will not learn about the special role of James Madison at the Constitutional Convention of 1787), but the cumulative impact will be worthwhile for adults and older children.

Associated People

The unattractive truth was that the arrival of the provisional treaty ending the war in April 1783 made the Continental Army superfluous, and the sooner it disappeared, the better. Congress eventually voted to provide full pay for five years for officers in lieu of half pay for life, but doing so was a purely rhetorical exercise, since there was no money in the federal coffers to pay anyone. Even that meaningless commitment generated widespread criticism, especially in New England, where returning officers were greeted with newspaper editorials describing them as blood-beaked vultures feeding at the public trough. At least in retrospect, the dissolution of the Continental Army in the spring of 1783 was one of the most poignant scenes in American history, as the men who had stayed the course and won the war were ushered off without pay, with paper pensions and only grudging recognition of their service.

Joseph J. Ellis
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783—1789 (2015)