September 17 - 1787 - The Signing of the United States Constitution

As its preamble notes, the United States Constitution was created "in order to form a more perfect Union." The thing it was trying to make more perfect was the loose agreement known as the Articles of Confederation, which had been governing the United States of America since the Revolutionary War. By 1786, thanks to a number of issues such as Shays' Rebellion, it became clear that the Articles of Confederation could not adequately form a strong enough Federal government. So in 1787 delegates gathered in Philadelphia to create a new government. The first outline was known as the Virginia Plan, as it was put forward by the Virginia Delegation and written by Virginian James Madison. The Virginia Plan had three separate branches of government, a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary, but the way the states were represented proved controversial. The balance between large and small states was agreed to, but issues around counting slaves in enumeration resulted in the notorious "Three-Fifths Compromise." Certain delegates also objected to a lack of a Bill of Rights, guaranteeing specific rights for citizens. Eventually, though, the Consitution was agreed to by a majority of the delegations, and it was signed and sent to the individual states for ratification.

William Floyd