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Transcript

1781

Articles of the Confederation ratified

1787

Constitutional Convention; Constitution written

1791

Bill of Rights (10 first Amendments)

1777

Articles of the Confederation written

1783

End of Independence War - US made up of 13 states

1790

Constitution ratified;First Supreme Court session

2022

Timeline

1775

Beginning of American Independence War

Constitution 235 years old

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first written constitution of the United States. It was written in 1777 and stemmed from wartime urgency.

Ratified, ratification: give formal consent, making it officially valid America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was ratified in 1781, a time when the nation was a loose confederation of states, each operating like independent countries.

The Articles of the Confederation - weak due to the following problems:

  • Each state with one vote in Congress, regardless of size.
  • Congress with no power to tax.
  • Congress with no power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.
  • No executive branch to enforce law passed by Congress.
  • No president, no national court system, no judicial branch.
It became increasingly evident that the young republic needed a stronger central government in order to remain stable. The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia met between May and September of 1787 to address the problems of the weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. They were meant to make suggestions for improvements to amend the Articles of Confederation; however, they soon began deliberating proposals for an entirely new form of government.

Beginning on December 7, 1787, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut–ratified the Constitution in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document. Rhode Island, the last holdout of the original 13 states, finally ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1790. it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. George Washington was inaugurated as America’s first president on April 30, 1789. On February 2, 1790, the U.S. Supreme Court held its first session, marking the date when the government was fully operative.

The Bill of Rights guarantees individuals certain basic protections as citizens, including freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to bear and keep arms; the right to peaceably assemble; protection from unreasonable search and seizure; and the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.

Through all the changes, the Constitution has endured and adapted. The framers knew it wasn’t a perfect document. As Benjamin Franklin said on the closing day of the convention in 1787: “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults (…) I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution.” Today, the original Constitution is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Constitution Day is observed on September 17, to commemorate the date the document was signed.