On Constitution Day, Truman Library shines light on political campaigns throughout U.S. history

LIBERTY, Mo. -- September 17th is a special day in American history. It is Constitution Day.

229 years ago, the U.S. Constitution became our nation's highest law. As the 2016 presidential elections draw near, politicians are still arguing over the interpretation of the historic document. Historians say the mudslinging is nothing new.

"We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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."

Those words were penned more two centuries ago, but the political pursuit of "a more perfect union" has been anything but civil.

"Whether it's Hillary's emails or Trump's University, we see scandals we think are unprecedented. We've always had contentious elections and mudslinging," Kurt Graham, the director of the Truman Library, said.

The start of that mudslinging could be seen way back in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson was accused by John Adams of being an atheist. John Adams was tied to a sex scandal.

George Baker is an Adams re-enactor.

"Anyone that would believe that I had two mistresses has never met Abigail Adams," Baker said in his portrayal of Adams.

A century and a half later, when televised debates and campaign ads began to sway 20th century voters for the first time, the political spins and shenanigans played to a larger audience.

But the inflammatory, accusatory nature of the political beast raises its angry head in every four years.

"You had to suck it up and say that's the expense of running for president of the U.S.," Baker's Adams said.

He did, even after the real Adams suffered a loss to Thomas Jefferson. Although some historians surmise Adams stepped away from the political skirmish in order to keep the peace.

"The idea that we the people of the U.S. have formed a perfect union and it's still very much in our hands, that is the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," Graham said.

When Americans cast their ballots and select a president, it is historically without government resistance or military upheaval -- something many countries have seen, or even continue to struggle with.

But here in the U.S, at the end of even the most brutal campaigns, losers simply accept the voters' decision, and concede.