How well do you, your family and friends know your country’s history? Take the following quiz and find out. Could make for some interesting conversations during the July 4 holiday weekend.
QUESTION: What does July 4th commemorate?
A) Victory in the Revolutionary War
B) The ratification of the Constitution of the United States
C) The signing of the Bill of Rights
D) The signing of the Declaration of Independence
Answer: D. The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress between July 2 and 4, which formally declared the 13 colonies free and independent states (hence the name “Independence Day”). It also intensified the Revolutionary War, which had begun a year earlier. The Declaration is regarded as America’s founding document.
QUESTION: Who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence?
A) James Madison
B) John Adams
C) Thomas Jefferson
D) Alexander Hamilton
ANSWER: C. Thomas Jefferson, then 33, was part of a five member committee assigned the task of writing the Declaration. Both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin wanted Jefferson to be the primary author, partly because of Jefferson’s gifted pen, and partly because they knew that Jefferson was more popular with the other delegates than either of them.
QUESTION: The U.S. Constitution stands out from all other constitutions in the world for two reasons. What are they?
A) It guaranteed the right to vote and free speech
B) It mandates two major political parties
C) It’s the oldest and shortest-written constitution
D) It can be amended and puts Congress in charge of appropriating public money.
ANSWER: C. The Constitution was approved by all 12 state delegations in September of 1787 (Rhode Island approved it later). The Bill of Rights, spelling out our basic liberties by limiting the power of government, was added in 1791. That makes it the oldest constitution in the world. At 4,440 words, the Constitution is also the world’s shortest charter for structuring and shaping a government. The Washington State Constitution, for example, is more than eight times longer than the federal Constitution.
QUESTION: What did the differences between the Founders have in common with the differences between Republicans and Democrats today?
A) Disagreements about whether America should encourage or discourage trade
B) Disagreements about whether the federal government should be stronger or limited
C) Disagreements about whether the presidency (or executive branch) should have more power than the Congress (or legislative branch).
D) All of these
E) None of these
ANSWER: D. Some of the same debates that crackled back and forth in Philadelphia, then New York, then Washington, D.C. in the late 1700s percolate on the front burner today. Back then the Federalists, who believed in a strong central government and military, included George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. The Democratic-Republican Party, which was suspicious about concentrating too much power in the federal government, was led by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Their disagreements were strong, but often ended with respect and affection. Ben Franklin bequeathed his walking stick to Washington. Jefferson and Adams, at one time the fiercest of rivals, began corresponding in retirement and became good friends. They died on the same day in 1826 — July 4, America’s 50th birthday.