The United States Constitution, the first official document to establish basic rights and laws for citizens, was signed on September 17, 1787. Since then it has been recognized as a symbol of freedom for Americans throughout time.
Below are some little known facts about the Constitution, its founding fathers, and how it came to be.
- Has 4,400 words, making it both the shortest and oldest document of its kind. With amendments and signatures, the total words come to 7,591.
- The document itself has many spelling errors, including “Pensylvania”.
- It took one hundred days to complete the Constitution.
- The word “democracy” is not found in the Constitution once.
- 11,000 amendments have been proposed, but only 27 have been approved.
- The meetings to discuss the Constitution were kept highly secret as to avoid media attention.
- While the Constitution is written in English, there is some Latin in the document.
- The Constitution was written in the Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall) where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
- James Madison is considered the “Father of the Constitution”. He attended every Constitutional meeting, and took diligent notes of these meetings in a journal, which was kept secret until after his death. It was published in 1840.
- The wording of the Constitution is largely attributed to Gouverneur Morris.
- Alexander Hamilton was the one to convince Congress to call for a Constitutional Convention to discuss amending the Articles of Confederation.
- After the Constitution was signed, Madison and Hamilton went about persuading the public to ratify the document through a series of essays called “The Federalist” which explained the new system.
- 39 delegates signed the constitution.
- Benjamin Franklin was the oldest party to sign the document at 81 years of age.
- George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed.
- Three men refused to sign it: Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry.
- 13 of the original delegates were absent at the time of signing.
- Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was serving as a Minister to France at the time.
- John Adams also did not sign it, as he was the first American Minister to the ambassador to Great Britain at the time.
- Rhode Island was the only state that did not have representation at the Constitution Convention.
The Constitution Through Time
- Since 1952, the Constitution has been kept on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. It is preserved in a case that contains argon gas and is kept at 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The population of the U.S. at the time of signing the Constitution was 4 million, and today the population sits at just roughly below 314 million. The median age during that time was 18 years old, and today the average age in the U.S. is 34 years old.
For more information, here is a timeline of the constitution, starting from when the Articles of Confederation were ratified.
1781: The first U.S. Constitution was called the Articles of Confederation. It gave Congress the power to manage foreign affairs, regulate currency and go to war. It was not successful in that it limited Congress’ ability to enforce these requests. Each state operated as independent regions under the Articles of Confederation.
1783: America wins its independence from Great Britain in what is known as the American Revolution.
1786: After the war, America needed a structured government to remain stable. At this point, a New York lawyer and politician, Alexander Hamilton, called for a constitutional meeting to discuss solutions.
February, 1787: Congress agreed to Hamilton’s request and sent out invitations to all 13 state delegates to meet in Philadelphia.
May, 1787: 55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. 34 of these delegates were lawyers. George Washington was selected president of the Convention by majority vote. It is during this meeting that the delegates were supposed to make amendments to the Articles of Confederation but instead they proposed a new form of government, which had three branches of government and a system of checks and balances to ensure no one level gets too much power.
September 17, 1787: The Constitution document is completed and officially signed by 39 delegates. Some of the original delegates were absent, while three dissented and refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights. In order for the Constitution to fully come into effect, it had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states.
December 7, 1787: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut give their blessing and quickly ratified the Constitution.
February, 1788: Massachusetts, Maryland and South Carolina follow suit.
1788: The Constitution is officially ratified (approved) when New Hampshire becomes the 9th state to authorize the document.
March 4, 1789: The day the Constitution was set to begin.
April 30, 1789: George Washington is inaugurated as America’s first president.
November 26, 1789: First national Thanksgiving Day created by George Washington to “give thanks” to the Constitution.
1789: Virginia and New York agree to ratify the Constitution.
February 2, 1790: First meeting of the U.S. Supreme Court.
May 29, 1790: Rhode Island is the last of 13 states to ratify the Constitution.
December 15, 1791: 10 amendments are added to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, giving more freedoms to individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion and more.
Since then, only 17 additional amendments have been made because each amendment must go through Congress and be approved by three quarters of all states.
The Constitution’s Impact
“We the People”, the Constitution’s opening line sets a precedent for the next two centuries of government and its effects can still be seen to this day. Not only is it an extremely important part of U.S. history, but it also plays a very large part in the daily lives of individuals knowing their rights and freedoms are clearly defined, protected and empowered through a fundamental document and democratic government system.