Constitutional Amendments

On September 17, 1787, 55  delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in what is now known as Independence Hall to finalize the Constitution. Adoption of the Constitution was not unanimous. Of the 55 delegates attending the Convention, 39 signed and 3 dissented. Only delegates to the Constitutional Convention were allowed access to the meetings of the convention. The text of the Constitution was not known to the public until it was signed.

James Madison developed the plan for ratifying the Constitution. Ratifying conventions would be held in each state. Delegates to the ratifying conventions would be elected by popular vote of the people. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved Madison's plan for ratification, which was included in Article VII of the Constitution providing that the Constitution would become effective after it had been ratified by nine of the thirteen states.

In the ratification process, a struggle ensued between those who opposed a strong federal government and those who supported establishment of such a government. Those who supported the establishment of a strong federal government and the passage of the Constitution were known as Federalists. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a series of articles supporting ratification which became known as The Federalist Papers. The debates in the states over ratification lasted ten months. By June 21, 1788, the Constitution had been ratified by the required 9 states, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.

The Constitution has seven articles: Article I, Legislative Powers; Article II, the Executive; Article III, the Judiciary; Article IV, States' Relations; Article V, Proposal and Ratification of Amendments, Miscellaneous Provisions, Preexisting Debts, Supreme Law of the Land; Article VI, Oath to Support the Constitution; Article VII, Ratification of the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution is the shortest and oldest of all written national constitutions. To learn more about what the Constitution's articles say and mean, go to: The Interactive Constitution.