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Constitution Day Guide

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States Painting by Howard Chandler Christy

Constitution Day is a federal holiday in the United States that celebrates the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. That year, Delegates gathered at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to respond to growing dissatisfaction with America's first governing document, the Articles of Confederation. Events like Shays' Rebellion proved the weakness of the Articles of Confederation, which did not provide for a strong centralized government. At issue, states still acted like independent countries, essentially rendering the national government powerless. The Constitution proposed a stronger federal government with three branches -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- and a system of checks and balances to prevent tyranny.

Although signed in 1787, the Constitution was not ratified until two years later. Among the contested issues, the Constitution of 1787 failed to abolish slavery. Abolition would take another 80 years with the passage of the 13th Amendment. Today, the original Constitution is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

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