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Exhibit Introduction

Crafted over a single summer in Philadelphia in 1787, the United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, and brought together 13 separate states as one, united country. The Constitution as signed on 17 September 1787, and ratified by the states in 1788, represented competing and often contentious groups and interests. It was structured to provide for a republican form of government with a balance between majorities and minorities while affirming the tenets of limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, and a uniquely American form of federalism.

This single document has stood as both the plan for the American system of government and through its 27 Amendments, a summary of the political values of generations of Americans. In celebration of the 230th anniversary of its signing, TeachingAmericanHistory.org has assembled this resource to help teachers and anyone interested in the Constitution better understand and appreciate it, using the document itself and other original works contemporaneous with it.

  • Exhibits on the Constitution: comprehensive, documents-based exhibits of the Convention of 1787, the ensuing Federalist-Antifederalist debates over ratification, and the Ratification Debates themselves, as they took place within the 13 states’ governments.
  • Teacher Resources: a concise collection of documents, archived webinars, and lesson plans for use by teachers as they help their students learn about what was accomplished, and what the Constitution means in their lives.
  • Multimedia: six videos from Professor Gordon Lloyd, expert on the American Founding, breaking the Convention down into digestible parts, along with commentary on the issue of slavery at the American Founding.
  • Timeline: Key documents that trace the creation of the Constitution from idea to drafting to ratification.

We hope you enjoy our collection of resources, and take the time to reflect on what was accomplished in the Summer of 1787, what was left to us as a legacy of that work, and what work is still yet to be completed. Ben Franklin, famous for many sayings and quips, was said to have told a passerby outside of Independence Hall, upon the adjournment of the Convention, that the delegates had created “…a republic…if you can keep it.” Consider, as you study, what you can do to preserve their work.

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