Signed in 1787, the U.S. Constitution includes a preamble and seven articles that outline how the American government is organized and operates. Let’s take a closer look at its creation.
The gathering that is now known as the Constitutional Convention convened on May 25, 1787. Delegates discussed and debated how a government should be formed, and agreed on the final draft on Sept. 17, 1787.
Rhode Island sent no delegates to Philadelphia because the legislature thought that the convention would create laws that would give the federal government too much power. See a full list of the delegates here.
Madison also drafted ideas for the government’s structure in a document known as the Virginia Plan, which recommended that states be represented based on population and that the government have three distinct branches. Madison is therefore known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Learn more about James Madison’s recordkeeping here and the Virginia Plan here.
It started with a long list of all the states: “We the people of the states of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island…” Learn more.
Two other Founding Fathers who reached the presidency, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were not delegates to the Constitutional Convention because they were abroad, serving as ambassadors: Jefferson was in France and Adams in Great Britain.
George Mason, Edmund Randolph, and Elbridge Gerry considered it a flawed document and wanted the Constitution to include a bill of rights to more clearly protect the rights of states and freedoms of individuals. Learn more.
Its nickname is “The First State,” which you see on many Delaware state license plates today. Learn more.
It did so in 1790, more than a year after the Constitution went into effect and George Washington had been sworn in as the first U.S. president. Rhode Island’s legislature agreed to the Constitution on the condition that it include a list of individual rights.
Read the entire Constitution online at the National Archives.
How much do you know about one of our nation’s founding documents?
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How much do you know about this key document in American history?