This Constitution Day tour is part of the White House’s “Of the People” series, which provides virtual field trips for middle school and high school students to Washington, D.C. for a behind-the-scenes look at the people, places and issues that shape and inform our world.
Join us live at 1:00 PM ET today and learn about the Preamble to the Constitution, get a short tour of the National Archives, and delve into the skills historians use to analyze primary source documents.
Constitution of the United States
Item From: General Records of the United States Government. (05/14/1787- 09/17/1787)
The Federal Convention convened on May 14, 1787 in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to revise the problematic Articles of Confederation. Since only two states had delegations present, any substantive debate was postponed until a quorum of seven states was attained on May 25th. After exhaustive deliberation well into the middle of June, the Convention concluded that the Articles were not salvageable and needed to be replaced with something that represented their collective interests while ensuring their continued independence.
Through subsequent closed sessions, the delegates continually debated, drafted and redrafted the articles of this new Constitution until it resembled the one we have today. The main points of contention were how much power was apportioned to the Federal Government, how many Congressional representatives were allotted to each state, and whether these representatives would be directly elected by their constituents or appointed by their state legislatures.
This new Constitution was the cumulative result of many minds coming together to conceptualize and debate the future course of the country. Through subsequent generations it has been amended and reinterpreted many times, but its continued success stems from adherence to these early promises of representation and compromise.
Happy 227th #ConstitutionDay!
September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. Learn more about the U.S. Constitution through programs, and resources from the National Archives:
- Of the People: Live from the National Archives - A Tour and Up Close Look at the Constitution with David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States
- Constitution Day Activities at the National Archives
- The Constitution of the United States
- View the Constitution in Person
- Read a Transcript of the Constitution
- Teaching Activities and Primary Sources from DocsTeach
Have you ever been to the usnatarchives to see the Constitution in person?
Bonus question - have you ever slept over in the same room as the Constitution?
Constitution Day Family Activities
Celebrate the 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution by writing with quill pens, dressing up, craft activities, and more!
This program is supported in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generosity of John Hancock.
Wednesday, September 17, 1-4 p.m. in the Boeing Learning Center
Photograph by Jeff Reed.
225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison introduced a series of proposed amendments to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution. That summer the House of Representatives debated Madison’s proposal, and on August 24 the House passed 17 amendments to be added to the Constitution. Those 17 amendments were then sent to the Senate.
On September 2, the Senate began considering amendments to the Constitutions as proposed and passed in the House. The Senate compiled this document over six days. The Senate’s debate continued for another two days and resulted in additional changes to the amendments not shown on this document.
On September 25, Congress passed 12 amendments that were sent to the states for approval. Ten of the amendments were ratified by the required three-fourths of the states and became part of the Constitution in 1791. These first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.
Notes Recording Senate Consideration of House Proposed Articles of Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 9/2/1789, SEN1A-C2, Records of the U.S. Senate
Why did George Washington draw this little hand?
From medieval times to the present, the symbol above has been used to direct attention to important passages of text. This mark is called a manicule (from the Latin root ‘manus’, meaining ‘hand’). This manicule was drawn by George Washington while he was annotating the first draft of the US Constitution on August 6, 1787. National Archives Identifier: 1501555
Lights out! We set up a time lapse camera to record how 100 kids and parents got comfortable for the good night in the Rotunda for our first-ever Archives Sleepover. (Hint: inflatable mattresses make a marble floor more bearable.)
The case in the middle contains the Constitution, while the Declaration of Independence to the left and the Bill of Rights is on the right.
Do you want to sleep next to the Constitution? You can sign up for the newsletter from the Foundation for the National Archives or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be alerted if we have another sleepover!
For more photos (at the ground level) from the sleepover, check out our Flickr stream at archivesnews.
We cannot emphasize enough the need for an inflatable mattress. Or two.
The Bill of Rights: 14 Originals
On September 28, 1789, Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg and Vice President John Adams signed the enrolled copy of the first proposed amendments to the new Constitution—the document later known as the Bill of Rights.
The final, signed copy contained the 12 constitutional amendments that Congress proposed to the states (10 of them, articles 3 through 12, were subsequently ratified and became the Bill of Rights). Shortly after it was signed, clerks created 13 additional copies, which President George Washington sent to the 11 existing states and to Rhode Island and North Carolina—which had not yet adopted the Constitution. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by Virginia, the eleventh and final state needed to officially add them to the Constitution.
So, there were 13 additional copies of the “Bill of Rights”— find out what happened to them in: Prologue: Pieces of History » The Bill of Rights: 14 Originals.
Senate revisions of the House proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 9/9/1789, SEN 1A-C2, Records of the U.S. Senate (NAID 3535588)
Old enough to vote?
Michigan Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg introduced Senate Joint Resolution 166 on October 19, 1942. This resolution would have amended the Constitution of the United States and extended the vote to
citizens 18 years or older. Although not ratified at the time, the proposal came up again, during the Vietnam War. The 26th Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971.
Senate Joint Resolution 166 Proposing the 26th Amendment, 10/19/1942
Rare Printing: United States Constitution
This month, rare printing of the United States Constitution underwent conservation treatment in the lab at Archives I. The record, consisting of two sheets of paper, was printed by New York printer John McLean on September 29, 1787 and shortly thereafter was attached to the RG 360 Resolve Book of the Continental Congress. At some point, the record was removed from the volume and joined as a folio with adhesives that, over time, stained the left edge of each sheet.
Conservation treatment focused on removing these adhesives to the extent possible with solvents on a vacuum suction table. The solvents were applied to the affected areas in order to solubilize the old adhesives which were then pulled through the paper into a blotter below. Once the adhesives were removed, the sheets were washed in purified water, sized with gelatin, and then dried and flattened. After digital imaging, the record will be returned to the Resolve Book.
Resources for Teaching about the Constitution
September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The National Archives is the permanent home of the U.S. Constitution.
Here we’ve compiled some resources from the National Archives and some of our partner organizations that you can use for teaching about the Constitution.
- A featured page for teaching about the Constitution, from DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.
- “The Charters of Freedom” online exhibit about the creation and history of the Constitution, housed at the National Archives.
- Exploring the United States Constitution eBook, connecting the billions of records in the holdings of the National Archives to the principles found in the United States Constitution.
- The United States Constitution course on iTunes U
- Teaching Six Big Ideas in the Constitution
- Founders Online
- Primary Sources related to the U.S. Constitution. from congressarchives on Tumblr
- And don’t forget past U.S. Constitution-related posts here on todaysdocument!
To the President of Congress
[Philadelphia, 17 September 1787]
We have now the Honor to submit to the Consideration of the United States in Congress assembled that Constitution which has appeared to us the most advisable.
The Friends of our Country have long seen and desired that the Power of making War Peace and Treaties, that of levying Money & regulating Commerce and the correspondent executive and judicial Authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general Government of the Union. But the Impropriety of delegating such extensive Trust to one Body of Men is evident—Hence results the Necessity of a different Organization.
It is obviously impracticable in the fœderal Government Of these States to secure all Rights of independent Sovereignty to each and yet provide for the Interest and Safety of all—Individuals entering into Society must give up a Share of Liberty to preserve the Rest. The Magnitude of the Sacrifice must depend as well on Situations and Circumstances as on the Object to be obtained. It is at all Times difficult to draw with Precision the Lines between those Rights which must be surrendered and those which may be reserved. And on the present Occasion this Difficulty was encreased by a Difference among the several States as to their Situation Extent Habits and particular Interests.
In all our Deliberations on this Subject we kept steadily in our View that which appears to us the greatest Interest of every true american the Consolidation of our Union in which is involved our Prosperity Felicity Safety perhaps our national Existence. this important Consideration seriously and deeply impressed on our Minds led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on Points of inferior Magnitude than might have been otherwise expected. And thus the Constitution which we now present is the Result of a Spirit of Amity and of that mutual Deference & Concession which the Peculiarity of our political Situation rendered indispensible.
That it will meet the full and entire Approbation of every State is not perhaps to be expected. But each will doubtless consider that had her Interests been alone consulted the Consequences might have been particularly disagreable or injurious to others. That it is liable to as few Exceptions as could reasonably have been expected we hope and believe That it may promote the lasting Welfare of that Country so dear to us all and secure her Freedom and Happiness is our most ardent wish.
Happy Constitution Day! The Constitution is 226 years old, and is the oldest written constitution still in use today. It is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. You can see a high-res image and read a transcript of the Constitution here: http://go.usa.gov/D5VR
Top Five Facts about the Constitution!
Five: The Constitution has 4,543 words, including the signatures. It takes about 30 minutes to read.
Four: Two of the first 12 amendments submitted were rejected; the remaining ten became the Bill of Rights.
Three: The Chief Justice is mentioned in the Constitution, but the number of Justices is not specified.
Two: Only one amendment to the Constitution has been repealed: the 18th (Prohibition).
One: The Constitution does not give us our rights and liberties, but it does guarantee them.
For more Constitution myth busting, read today’s blog post: http://go.usa.gov/D5kJ
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.
Teach your child about the Constitution on September 17!
Join us for Constitution Day activities in the Boeing Learning Center at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
- Draft your own amendment to the Constitution
- Play games and learn more about the Framers
- Design your own American flag
- Discover the rules for adding more states to the Union
- Write with a quill pen, just like they did in 1789
Activities are free and open to all visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.