Constitutional Convention of 1787

May 25, 1787–September 17, 1787

The Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787. The purpose was to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, the Convention resulted in the United States Constitution.

Constitutional Convention, Signing the Constitution, Christy

Painting by Howard Chandler Christy of the signing of the Constitution. Image Source: Wikipedia.

United States Constitutional Convention Summary

By 1787, only four years after the official end of the Revolution, many Americans were convinced that the new nation could not survive under the weak central government established by the Articles of Confederation. Following two previous attempts to address growing concerns about the state of the nation (Mt.Vernon, 1785 and Annapolis, 1786), delegates from 12 of the 13 states assembled in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 to “revise the Articles of Confederation,” as authorized by Congress. The delegates soon developed other ideas, however, and instead, undertook the task of drafting an entirely new document. Throughout a summer of heated debate and enlightened compromise between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, the delegates drafted a new Constitution that did far more than strengthen federal authority. Their work redefined relationships between the individual states, and between the states and the central government. More importantly, though, it redefined relationships between the federal government and U.S. citizens. As the balance shifted from a loose confederation of 13 states who wielded their individual powers, a new government emerged, created by “We, the people of the United States.” Though the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights and was woefully negligent regarding large portions of the populace (notably women and people of African descent), when judged by the standards of their times, the work of the delegates was truly revolutionary, creating a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Ratification of the United States Constitution

On September 17, the delegates that were in attendance voted to accept the Constitution and send it to the state legislatures. In order for the new Constitution to be accepted, it had to be ratified — or approved — by nine of the 13 states. The Convention gave the states six months to review and debate the proposed Constitution.

On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution — and therefore the first state. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on June 21, 1788, when it was ratified by New Hampshire.

Timeline of Ratification of the United States Constitution

This timeline shows the order that each of the 13 states ratified the Constitution.

  1. Delaware — December 7, 1787
  2. Pennsylvania — December 12, 1787
  3. New Jersey — December 18, 1787
  4. Georgia — January 2, 1788
  5. Connecticut — January 9, 1788
  6. Massachusetts — February 6, 1788
  7. Maryland — April 28, 1788
  8. South Carolina — May 23, 1788
  9. New Hampshire — June 21, 1788
  10. Virginia — June 25, 1788
  11. New York — July 26, 1788
  12. North Carolina — November 21, 1789
  13. Rhode Island — May 29, 1790

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Constitutional Convention of 1787
  • Date May 25, 1787–September 17, 1787
  • Author
  • Keywords constitutional convention, 1787
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 20, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 17, 2022