Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution basics

Constitution 1. system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or society is governed. 2. the written set of fundamental principles by which the United States is governed.

Basic governing principles
Popular Sovereignty A government created by and for the people.
Rule of Law A government guided by a set of laws, rather than by any individual or group entity.
Separation of Powers and a System of Checks and Balances A separation of powers and distribution of functions and responsibilities among three separate government branches, and a system of checks and balances to calibrate those powers.
Federalism A federalist system whereby governing power is shared between the national government and the individual state governments.
Judicial Review The establishment of the Supreme Court as the judicial branch’s authoritative institution, and the resulting power of judicial review.
Individual Rights Protection of individual rights and liberties against government encroachment.

Much of this information is from the website of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA – the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people. For more information go to

Constitution Chronology

For more than a century after settling in the new world the colonists called themselves Englishmen and experienced relative freedom from control by the British crown. King George of England began making commands in the 1760′s that the colonists found intolerable and they rebelled.

    The First Continental Congress convened in September 1774. Fighting breaks out at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May 1775. Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense in January 1776. On July 4, 1776 Congress issued the Declaration of Independence. The Articles of Confederation, the first constitutional agreement among the 13 colonies, is ratified in March 1781. The British forces surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The Constitutional Convention begins in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787, delegates debate inclusion of the Bill of Rights on September 12, 1787 and on September 17, 1787 the final draft of the Constitution was accepted. The Federalist Papers promoting ratification of the Constitution appeared in newspapers beginning in November 1787 and on June 21, 1788 the Constitution took effect when ratified by the ninth state, New Hampshire. The Bill of Rights was adopted in September 1789.

Much of this information is from the website of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA – the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people. For more information go to

Quotations about the Constitution and democracy

   It appears to me little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States…manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national Government. George Washington

    If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation. Abigail Adams

    I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. James Madison

    It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people’s minds. Samuel Adams

    Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. Benjamin Franklin

    My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. Thomas Paine 

    Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. Thomas Jefferson

    Cultivate peace and harmony with all. George Washington

    Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. John Adams

    In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. Alexander Hamilton

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. Thomas Jefferson

    The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them…to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men. John Adams

The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society. Thomas Jefferson

    The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison

    A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it’s true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt…if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake. Thomas Jefferson

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