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US Constitution for Kids

What is the Constitution? Definition of US Constitution for Kids
What is the Constitution? Definition: The US Constitution was written to establish the basic principles of the political, legal, and economic systems of the United States of America. The US Constitution is the basic framework for the system of Government in America. The adoption of the Constitution of the United States led to the creation of the United States Congress. The US Constitution was written eleven years after the Declaration of Independence and four years after the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

First there were State Constitutions, then the US Constitution
The American Revolutionary War of Independence began on April 18, 1775. On May 15, 1776 Congress advised all the colonies to form governments for themselves and the Legislative assemblies began writing and adopting their own State constitutions. The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776 announcing the separation of the colonies from Great Britain. By 1780, every state had a written constitution. George Washington was the 1st American President who served in office from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. The US Constitution was adopted prior to his presidency.

US Constitution

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The US Constitution: What were the Articles of Confederation?
The Articles of Confederation were the first governing document and the original constitution of the United States. The Articles of Confederation contained the terms, agreed by the thirteen new states, by which they agreed to participate in a centralized form of government, in addition to the self rule of the states. They were effective from March 1, 1781 to March 4, 1789 and were the basis of the national government of the US during the American War of Independence.

7 Principles of the Constitution

Original Constitution Text

Preamble to the Constitution

Bill of Rights Amendments 1-10

Why was the US Constitution written?
Government under the Articles of Confederation was ineffective and weak as it could not enforce a treaty or a law or impose any taxes. Important decisions were seriously delayed as they first had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states. The Articles of Confederation were therefore replaced by the US Constitution, that went into effect in 1789.

The US Constitution: The Birth of the Nation and the Written Constitution
The birth of the new nation required a system of government that placed power into the hands of the people and divided power between the states and the federal government in a balanced fashion. The British had an "unwritten" constitution. Americans believed that the US Constitution should be written down, making it harder for a government to violate basic principles and ensuring the rights of citizens were protected.

The US Constitution: The Purpose of the Constitution
The purpose of the Constitution was to describe how the new government of the United States of America would be organized, how government officials would be chosen, and what rights the new central government would guarantee to its citizens.

The US Constitution: Where was the Constitution written?
Where was the Constitution written? The US Constitution was written during the Philadelphia Convention (now known as the Constitutional Convention) which met in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia.

The US Constitution: Who wrote the Constitution?
Who wrote the Constitution? The US Constitution was written by many men. Elements were taken from the existing State Constitutions and used by delegates of the Philadelphia Convention to create the US Constitution. They also used the Articles of Confederation as a basis and then new ideas contained in the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. Agreements between the states were made by agreeing to various Constitutional compromises. (For additional facts and info refer to Great Compromise, the Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise and the Three Fifths Compromise.)

George Washington was president of the convention, Benjamin Franklin a famous delegate was called the "Sage of the Constitutional Convention". A Committee of Detail was appointed, consisting of John Rutledge, of South Carolina; Edmund Randolph, of Virginia; Nathaniel Gorham, of Massachusetts; Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut; and James Wilson, of Pennsylvania created a draft on August 6, 1787. A Committee of Style was then created to revise the draft that included William Samuel Johnson, of Connecticut; Alexander Hamilton, of New York; Gouverneur Morris, of Pennsylvania; James Madison, of Virginia; and Rufus King, of Massachusetts. It was revised by September 12, 1787. The preamble was written by the Committee of Style.

The US Constitution: When was the Constitution written?
It was written during the Philadelphia convention which convened between May 25, 1787 and September 17, 1787. It was written in less than 100 days. It was signed on September 17, 1787 by 39 delegates. Fourteen delegates had already departed for home, and three members, Randolph and Mason, of Virginia, and Gerry, of Massachusetts, refused to sign.

The US Constitution: When was the Constitution Adopted?
Although the US Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 it had to be approved by the people and the states. This process took some time and it was only when 9 out of the 13 states approved it that the US Constitution could come into effect. The date the US Constitution was finally adopted was on June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire and Virginia adopted the Constitution. They were the 9th and 10th states to take this action.  

The US Constitution: James Madison the "Father of the Constitution"
There were some objections to the constitution and amendments were added to the document. James Madison was called the "Father of the Constitution" as he played a significant role in ensuring the First ten amendments (called the Bill of Rights) were added to the US Constitution. James Madison wrote the amendments in 1789 and the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) came into effect in 1791.

The US Constitution: The New Government
The adoption of the US Constitution allowed for preparations to be made for the organization of the new government. This process also took some time. George Washington was unanimously elected President, and was inaugurated in April, 1789. North Carolina and Rhode Island were the last of the thirteen states to adopt the Constitution and  the Union of the thirteen original states was complete.

The US Constitution
The US Constitution consists of

The Preamble to the Constitution listing the reasons why the 13 original colonies separated from Great Britain to become an independent nation.

The Seven Articles of the US Constitution - Summary of 7 Articles of the Constitution

The Amendments to the US Constitution - the first 10 amendments were called the Bill of Rights

US Constitution for Kids - President George Washington Video
The article on the US Constitution for Kids provides an overview of one of the major events in American History. The following video will give you important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 1st American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.

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