September 17 marks 225 years since the U.S. Constitution was signed. Now observed annually as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” the date not only celebrates the document that determines how Americans are governed, but also recognizes those who have become U.S. citizens and encourages Americans to learn more about their civic responsibilities and opportunities.
When representatives of the newly independent United States gathered in Philadelphia in May 1787, they were tasked with improving upon the country’s first constitution, the 1781 Articles of Confederation, which had created a federal government that had proven to be too weak for the country’s needs.
Participants endured four months of hard debate and eventually found compromises between the interests of large states and small states, as well as between those who wanted a strong central government and others who wanted individual states to retain their autonomy.
After gaining independence from a monarchy, but with an unsettled postwar governing structure, the designers of the U.S. Constitution sought to establish a government that protected newly won freedoms while restraining the instinct of some to dominate others.