Today in History: U.S. Constitution Signed by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia

by Alex Caldwell

On Sept. 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was signed by members of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

George Washington presided over the Convention, which featured Founding Fathers James Madison, James Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin.

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States oil painting by Howard Chandler Christy painted in 1940.

According to James Madison, the Constitution was read to the delegates at the start of the Convention.

Benjamin Franklin, at 81-years old, wrote the speech urging the Convention’s delegates to sign the document. However, because of his poor health, James Wilson delivered the speech to the convention on Franklin’s behalf.

“I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them,” the speech began.

“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?” asked Franklin.

Founding Father James Wilson read Benjamin Franklin’s speech urging members of the Constitutional Convention to sign and adopt a Constitution of the United States.

38 of the 41 delegates signed the Constitution. Elbridge Gerry, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph would not sign it.

After the Constitutional Convention, the Constitution had to be ratified by nine of the 13 states before it would become legally binding.

On Dec. 7, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, ratified the document. Massachusetts refused to support the document, arguing that did not protect freedom of speech, religion, and the press.

In 1788, Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina agreed to support the Constitution after a compromise was reached that assured them that amendments addressing their concerns would be proposed. New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution on June 21, 1788, signifying the approval of a Constitution to the United States.

The United States Constitution was officially adopted on March 4, 1789, nearly two months before George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States.

On March 4, 1789, nearly two months before George Washington was sworn in as President of the United States, the Constitution was officially adopted by the government.

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