In celebration of the 225th birthday of the U.S. Constitution (September 17, 1787), the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, in partnership with the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, is offering a full day of free programming on Monday, September 17, 2012 beginning at 11 am in the library’s auditorium.
The theme of the event will be “federalism,” defining the power relationship between the state and federal governments that has always challenged the nation’s founders, leaders and lawmakers. First up at 11 am, Patrick Henry will visit the library to explain why, despite being invited as one of Virginia’s most prominent leaders, he declined to attend the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Portrayed by the veteran living historian Tony Steer of Cincinnati, Mr. Henry will also field questions from the audience.
At noon, the highly regarded and nationally known Constitutional historian and legal scholar Dr. Michael Les Benedict will deliver the keynote address, “Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution.” The talk will explore the constitutional issues President Lincoln faced, his contribution to American constitutionalism, how he defended his actions to the American people and how his decisions were made through constitutional politics.
Dr. Benedict (Ph.D., Rice University) is Emeritus Professor of History at The Ohio State University, where he also served as Adjunct Professor of Law. The author of The Blessings of Liberty, a leading textbook on American constitutional history, he has also written numerous books and articles on the constitutional history of the Civil War era, including The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1973), A Compromise of Principle (1974), and Preserving the Constitution: Essays on Politics and the Constitution in the Reconstruction Era (2006). He is a regular presenter and commenter at national historical conventions and specialized conferences and symposia. Professor Benedict has held many prestigious research and teaching fellowships and has been visiting professor at universities and law schools in the United States, and in Japan and the United Kingdom. He is an elected member of the Society of American Historians and a member of the presidentially appointed Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise committee. He has served as president of the Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, on the board of directors of the American Society for Legal History, and is the long-time parliamentarian of the American Historical Association.
Following the keynote address at approximately 1 pm, community leaders from various fields will read aloud the text of the Constitution. Each reader will then sign an enlarged facsimile of the original document symbolically reaffirming the enduring contract between the government and the people. The event will also feature free snacks and beverages and display items.
Later that evening at 7 pm, Dr. David Javersak will lead another installment in the library’s Making Sense of the Civil War book discussion series. Appropriately, the discussion will focus on the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, which was fought 150 years ago on September 17, 1862. Made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, the reading and discussion program is a part of the library’s Civil War sesquicentennial observance. The primary texts for the discussion will be Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson, and America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries, edited by Edward L. Ayers.
All of the library’s Constitution Day programs are free and open to the public. Please call the library at 304-232-0244 for more information.