Drafted in secret by delegates to the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787, this four-page document, signed on September 17, 1787, established the government of the United States.
The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia
on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Because the delegations
from only two states were at first present, the members adjourned from day to
day until a quorum of seven states was obtained on May 25. Through discussion
and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles,
the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government. All through the
summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles
of the new Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to
allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each
state, and how these representatives should be elected—directly by the
people or by the state legislators. The work of many minds, the Constitution stands
as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.
For more history and background on the Constitution’s creation, read
A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives' new Charters
of Freedom site.