Two Constitutions: Keeping Colorado Free
The Colorado Courts Celebrate Constitution Day
Message from former Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey
The anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, September 17, must be commemorated each year as Constitution Day by order of the U.S. Congress, enacted in 2004. Schools receiving federal funds must provide educational programs about the U.S. Constitution to mark the day.
In 1787, after many heated arguments about what form the new American government would take, the delegates to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia finished their draft of a document so filled with compromises that it wholly pleased none of them. The new U.S. Constitution divided the powers of government among three independent branches – legislative, executive, and judicial – requiring them to compromise among themselves and empowering each branch to check and balance the powers granted to each of the others.
Most importantly, the U.S. Constitution did not simply list what the national government would do. It specifically listed what it could not do, thereby protecting the freedoms of the people and requiring still more compromises as the new nation governed itself.
The American democracy, designed to require the compromising of disagreements, was born in disagreement: Of the 54 delegates from 12 states who attended the Constitutional Convention, 40 signed the document. The remainder did not.
Nearly a century later, 39 delegates to the Colorado constitutional convention gathered on December 20, 1876, in Denver. For the 87 days, they worked to draft the document that would become the constitution of the new state of Colorado. The delegates modeled the state constitution on the U.S. Constitution, including a Bill of Rights and dividing the powers of government into three branches that would check and balance each other, preserving the freedoms of the people. All 39 delegates signed the new constitution, but when it was submitted to the citizens of Colorado Territory for approval, 15,443 voted in favor of it, and 4,062 were opposed.
The role of the judicial branch of government, under both the U.S. Constitution and the Colorado Constitution, is to peacefully resolve disagreements while balancing the rights and freedoms of the parties that disagree. The Colorado courts are proud to celebrate the freedoms guaranteed by our two constitutions.
We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice; insure tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the "State of Colorado".
United States Constitution
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.