The Constitution is the lodestar of the KTB Prep American Government and Civics series designed to acquaint users with the origins, concepts, organizations, and policies of the United States government and political system. The goal is greater familiarization with the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.
What is the Constitution?
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.
It’s organized into three parts. The first part, the Preamble, describes the purpose of the document and the Federal Government. The second part, the seven Articles, establishes how the Government is structured and how the it can be changed. The third part, the 27 Amendments, lists changes to the Constitution; the first 10 are called the Bill of Rights.
After the end of the American Revolution, the states were still governed under the Articles of Confederation. As time went on, it became very clear that the government was not good enough and changes had to be made to this system.
A convention of delegates from every state except Rhode Island met in May of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here, George Washington was chosen to be the president of the convention. At the end of May, it was decided that the best way to fix the country’s problems was to stop governing under the Articles of Confederation and create a new constitution and new government. After three months and a lot of debating and compromising, the new governing document was finally accepted by the delegates on September 17, 1787. However, their work was not finished there.
Even though it was already written, the Founding Fathers had to get the states to vote to replace the Articles of Confederation. Nine states needed to vote in favor for it to be accepted as the new governing document.
On December 3, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution, or to vote in favor of it. The last of the nine to accept the Constitution was New Hampshire, who ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, which ended the government under the Articles of Confederation.
While the Constitution had already become the governing document, the last four states eventually also ratified the Constitution. Rhode Island was the last state and it ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1790.