Fast Facts About the U.S. Constitution

Better Understand the Constitution's Overall Structure

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. It established fundamental laws and ensured basic rights for American citizens. Containing 27 amendments, the Constitution of the United States was written at the Philadelphia Convention, the same place as the Declaration of Independence. Discover fast facts about the U.S. Constitution, better understand its overall structure and review the preamble:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Quick Facts

  • The nickname for the U.S. Constitution is "Bundle of Compromises."
  • The Chief Draftsmen of the U.S. Constitution is James Madison and Gouverneur Morris.
  • The ratification of the U.S. Constitution happened in 1789 with the agreement of 9 out of 13 states. Eventually, all 13 would ratify the US Constitution.
     

Overall Structure of the U.S. Constitution

  • There are seven articles followed by 27 amendments
  • The first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.
  • The U.S. Constitution is currently considered the shortest governing document of any nation.
  • The U.S. Constitution was organized secretly, behind locked doors that were guarded by sentries.

    Key Principles

    • Separation of Powers:  An act of vesting the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government in separate bodies.
    • Checks and Balances: Counterbalancing influences by which an organization or system is regulated, typically those ensuring that political power is not concentrated in the hands of individuals or groups.
    • Federalism: Federalism is the sharing of power between national and state governments. In America, the states existed first and they had the challenge of creating a national government.
       

    Ways to Amend the U.S. Constitution

    • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
    • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
    • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
    • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)
       

    Proposing and Ratifying Amendments

    • To propose an amendment, two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to propose and amendment. Another way is to have two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention.
    • To ratify an amendment, three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it. The second way is for three-fourths of ratifying conventions in states approve it.

    Interesting Constitutional Facts

    • Only 12 of the 13 original states actually took part in writing the US Constitution.
    • Rhode Island did not attend the Constitutional Convention, though they eventually were the last state to ratify the document in year 1790.
    • The very first national “Thanksgiving Day” was uniquely started by George Washington as a form of “giving thanks” toward the Constitution.
    • Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention at the age of 81-years-old.
    • Jonathon Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest in attendance at just 26-years-old.
    • Over 11,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress.