The members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Constitutional Convention convened in response to dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation and the need for a strong centralized government. After four months of secret debate and many compromises, the proposed Constitution was submitted to the states for approval. Although the vote was close in some states, the Constitution was eventually ratified and the new Federal government came into existence in 1789. The Constitution established the U.S. government as it exists today.
Learn more about the United States Constitution:
Download and print the Constitution from the National Constitution Center.
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The Executive Branch of the United States Government is headed by the President, who is responsible for domestic policy, including the enforcement of federal laws, and foreign affairs, serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The Legislative Branch of the United States Government includes Congress, the chief law-making body in the country, and agencies that provide support for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Judicial Branch of the Government includes the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country, and lower Federal courts. Courts hear arguments and issue decisions about the interpretation and application of laws and whether they violate the Constitution.
James Madison introduced 12 amendments to the First Congress in 1789. Ten of these would go on to become what we now consider to be the Bill of Rights. One was never passed, while another dealing with Congressional salaries was not ratified until 1992, when it became the 27th Amendment. Based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights, the writings of the Enlightenment, and the rights defined in the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights contains rights that many today consider to be fundamental to America.