The source of it all; Constitution is alive and well.
When state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer reaches into his glove compartment for his copy of the Constitution, the words he enjoys most are the first three.
"We the people," he said. "For three thousand years, people had been ruled by czars, kings, queens, pharaohs, and dictators and for the first time, the people."
After 225 years, Mr. Brewer said the document is still the only constitution that starts in such an egalitarian fashion. It has stood the test of time with only 27 amendments since it was signed on Sept. 17, 1787 and ratified in June 1788.
The Constitution remains this country's guiding document, but its success may be due in part to always being reinterpreted.
"Even from its inception, the Constitution has been highly contested, highly debated," said Mark Miller, a professor of political science at Clark University. "The Constitution we have today is certainly different than the Constitution of 1787."
The changes have resulted, in part, through a handful of amendments, but more from the interpretation of the document by the courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. The document itself is only four pages long, about 4,400 words.
"State constitutions are much longer and much more detailed," Mr. Miller said. "The Constitution doesn't say how federal courts should be structured or how many there are. There are lots of things other sources of law have to fill in."
The document was drawn up in secret, but when it was signed, the Constitution was announced with much fanfare. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester has a copy of the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser which first ran a story of the creation of the Constitution on Sept. 18, 1787 and printed the text of the Constitution, without advertisement or other news, in its Sept. 19, 1787, edition.
"It is one of the earliest announcements of the Constitution," said Vincent Golden, curator of newspapers and periodicals for the Society.
Mr. Golden said the paper took the rare step of printing just the document.
"I don't know of any other event during the Revolution that was printed like this," he said.
The society has numerous Constitution-related documents and copies of the document printed in many different formats.
From the beginning, the Constitution has been controversial.
Even as it was being written, the Federalist Papers were crafted to promote the Constitution and anti-Federalists worked to defeat it.
Today, it is no different with people from the left and the right trying to interpret its meaning to suit their purposes.
In the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester there is a copy of the Bickerstaff Boston Almanac, a booklet that James D. Moran, director of outreach for the society, says was for its time, "The Today Show, Physicians Desk Reference, Weather Channel and maybe People Magazine."
In a 1787 edition found by Elizabeth Watts Pope, the society's curator of books, the almanac dedicated its efforts to promoting the Constitution and encouraging Massachusetts residents to ratify it. The cover depicts a drawing of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in a chariot, pulled by the other 37 signers of the Constitution. Washington has a copy of the Constitution in his hand. Inside are words to a song penned in support of the Constitution called, "The Grand Constitution: The Palladium of Columbia, A New Song."
There was just as much effort to defeat the Constitution, according to Stephen C. Bullock, a history professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The framers of the Constitution were looking to shore up the federal government which had a debt crisis from the cost of fighting the Revolution and no army to put down armed rebellion. But they were opposed by those who wanted power to remain with the states and concerns that it would take away from liberty won through the Revolution.
"Many people disagreed, yet by the middle of the 1790s, people accepted that the Constitution is the standard," he said.
Once people accepted the Constitution, the arguments became about interpretation and that continues today.
"I use the Fourth and Fifth Amendments very frequently," said Athol Police Sgt. Christoper Casella.
The Fourth Amendment establishes limits on search and seizure and the part of the Fifth Amendment most familiar to police officers refers to an individual's right against self-incrimination.
"I remember sitting in the classroom studying case law and thinking to myself, `How do these cops get into these situations,' " Sgt. Casella said. "Once I was working on my own, I quickly found out that the laws are black ink written on white paper, but the reality is that there is a ton of gray out there and it quickly finds you while performing the job as a policeman."
Nancy Binder, an attorney from Gardner, said the Constitution was the driving force behind her late husband, Peter Binder's, practice. Mr. Binder died a year ago.
"His practice of law over 40 years was not about getting somebody off, but about protecting everybody's rights under that document," she said.
"If the government tramples over the rights of the poor and downtrodden, where does it stop before it affects every one of us?"
Even today those rights are being reviewed and expanded. Mr. Miller said he teaches a new generation of students who look at the Constitution differently than his generation did.
"Every generation has its own view," he said. "This generation has trouble understanding a world that prohibits same sex marriage. They assume equality is enshrined in the Constitution."
Mr. Miller said same-sex marriage, affirmative action issues and race issues will likely continue to be looked at from a constitutional standpoint in the future as justices shape the view of, but rarely change the Constitution.
PHOTOG: (1 AND 2) T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN; (3) T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
CUTLINE: (1) American Antiquarian Society curator of newspapers and periodicals Vincent Golden, left, and WPI professor of history Steven C. Bullock, display a first printing of the complete text of the U.S. Constitution. (2) A woodcut published in the 1788 edition of Bickerstaff's Boston Almanack. (3) "Even from its inception, the Constitution has been highly contested, highly debated," says Mark Miller, a professor of political science at Clark University