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.
— Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
In 2004, Congress passed legislation establishing Constitution and Citizenship Day, a federal holiday commemorating the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. This year marks the 231st anniversary of the historic event.
Background on the U.S. Constitution
On Sept. 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates attending the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution, forging a new government for the United States of America.
The result of months of strenuous debate over the structure and powers of a new federal government, the U.S. Constitution is a testament to cooperative statesmanship and the art of politics. In fact, in his proclamation creating the first national Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, George Washington noted that the holiday should be a time for the people of the United States to give thanks, among other things, for “the peaceable and rational manner” in which the Constitution had been established.
Since the Bill of Rights was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 16 times. Providing an intricate system of checks and balances among the various branches and levels of government, and assuring the basic individual liberties that are essential to a free and democratic society, this remarkable document has proved extraordinarily adaptable to the needs of a changing society. It also has served as an inspiration and a model for other countries around the world.
The National Archives has posted a variety of materials about the Constitution available through these links:
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