Constitution Day
ATT: Dinah Zeiger
JAMM - University of Idaho
P.O. Box 443178
Moscow, ID 83844-3178

FAX: (208) 885-6450


Phone: 208-885-6111
Toll-free: 88-88-UIDAHO
Fax: 208-885-9119
Student Union Building
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264


Phone: 208-334-2999
Fax: 208-364-4035
322 E. Front Street
Boise, ID 83702

Coeur d'Alene

Phone: 208-667-2588
Toll-free: 888-208-2268
Fax: 208-664-1272
1031 N. Academic Way,
Suite 242
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Idaho Falls

Phone: 208-282-7900
Fax: 208-282-7929
1776 Science Center Drive, Suite 306
Idaho Falls, ID 83402

Painting of the Signing of the Constitution


  • Only one item occupied the agenda on September 17, 1787: to sign the Constitution of the United States of America. Thirty-nine of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, held their final meeting that day to affix their signatures to a revolutionary document.

  • Benjamin Franklin, who at age 81 was the oldest signatory, was so infirm he had to be carried to sessions in a sedan chair.

  • The delegates had met for three-and-a-half months in the State House – now called Independence Hall – to revise the Articles of Confederation, which had governed and guided the fledgling nation in its War of Independence.

  • The delegates wrote an entirely new document – four hand-written pages spelling out the separation the powers of the central government, the powers of the states, the rights of the people and how the representatives of the people should be elected.

  • The Preamble to the Constitution enumerates its intent: “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.”

  • Copies of the new Constitution were sent the 13 colonies for debate, and, hopefully,ratification. By June 21, 1788, nine states had approved the Constitution, finally forming "a more perfect Union."

  • In the ratification debate, Anti-Federalists opposed to the Constitution complained the new system threatened liberties. They argued that if the delegates had truly cared about protecting individual rights, they would have included provisions that accomplished that.

  • With ratification in serious doubt, Federalists announced a willingness to take up the matter of a series of amendments, to be called the Bill of Rights, when the First Congress met.

  • James Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution, initially opposed a Bill of Rights, which he called “a parchment barrier.” He came to believe a declaration of rights was necessary and that it would help install the judiciary as "guardians" of individual rights against the other branches.

  • "[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse." Thomas Jefferson December 20, 1787

  • The Bill of Rights, inspired by Jefferson and drafted by James Madison, was adopted in 1791, becoming the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

  • Today, the Constitution contains 27 amendments.

  • Amendment 27, limiting congressional pay increases, was ratified in May 1992.