CONSTITUTION DAY

When was the US Constitution signed?

The United States Constitution forms the bedrock of the laws and governmental structures that still guide society to this day, but how old is it?

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When was the US Constitution signed?

The Constitution of the United States is the bedrock of the national government and fundamental laws that Americans enjoy to this day. The Constitution was signed on 17 September 1787, by delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

At the time the central government, or what little of it there was, had few powers and states essentially operated as independent territories. However the Constitution set the framework for a stronger, federal government with three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.

The Preamble to the Constitution reads: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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."

What is Constitution Day?

To mark that pivotal day in American, and even global, history, an annual celebration is held to remember the foundations upon which the United States as we know it is built. However the history of Constitution Day is fairly recent and it was first mooted in 1939, by the New York City news tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Hearst used his newspaper empire and considerable political connections to campaign for an “I am an American Day”, which was first officially designated as the third Sunday in May by Congress in 1940. Then, in 1952, An Ohioan named Ola T. Weber petitioned municipal leaders to change the date to the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, and it was duly moved to 17 September in 1953.

However Constitution Day was not recognised as an official holiday until 2004 when Senator Robert Byrd pushed for it to be included in an Omnibus Spending Bill. From 2005 onwards the United States Department of Education began providing federal funds for schools to help inform and educate about the Constitution.

The law also required the heads of every federal agency to provide educational materials regarding the Constitution to mark 17 September every year. Alongside Independence Day and Presidents’ Day, Constitution Day forms an important part of America’s cultural heritage.

To mark the celebration this year, a White House proclamation reads: “For 234 years, America’s Constitution has guided our growth, shaped our progress, and defined us as a Nation of sacred laws and fundamental values. When our democracy is tested, we draw strength from the Constitution to see us through.”