Who Handwrote the Original Constitution?
Jacob Shallus, a clerk working for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, was responsible for physically writing and transcribing the United States Constitution. He had about 40 hours to turn around the drafts from the Constitutional Convention into a final document. The final document wasn’t without its errors, either.
On Friday, September 15, 1787, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention agreed to adopt the latest draft (with shouts of “aye!”). Over the weekend, they needed someone to turn these drafts into a final, readable document. This person also needed to be extremely trustworthy.
Enter Jacob Shallus, son of German immigrants, who was working in the Pennsylvania State House as an assistant clerk. He dutifully accepted the project on a short deadline. With quill and parchment, Shallus wrote over 4,000 words in one weekend.
There were a few errors, some of which were fixed by Shallus himself. In most cases, he had left out certain words or phrases. Errors were corrected below the document, on a separate “errata” section. Other times, Shallus tried to squeeze in words or remove ink using a pen knife.
Many documents from the Constitutional Convention were destroyed, which for some time made it hard for historians to find out who physically wrote the Constitution. One dedicated historian, John Clement Fitzpatrick, was able to identify Jacob Shallus based on one $30 receipt that was left behind.