Constitution Day

September 17th is Constitution Day

On September 17,  1787, our Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia and began drafting one of the most important documents of our nation’s history.  The Constitution was written and signed in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. It established America’s national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens. Since its adoption in 1789, the The Constitution has been the primary basis for our country’s government. In 2005, Congress officially established September 17th as Constitution Day, as a way to celebrate this influential document. 


▼   What does the Constitution do?

▪ Sets up and defines the government 

▪ Protects basic rights of Americans 


The Constitution was written to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but would not be a risk to fundamental rights. This was accomplished by separating the power of government into three branches, and including checks and balances on those powers to assure that no one branch of government gained supremacy.

It also provides for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives based on state population. Representation based on population in the House was one of the most important components of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. 

▼   What is an amendment? 

▪ A change or an addition to the Constitution 


An amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress, or, if two-thirds of the States request one, by a convention called for that purpose. The amendment must then be ratified by three-fourths of the State legislatures, or three-fourths of conventions called in each State for ratification. 

▼   What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

 ▪ the Bill of Rights, which includes: 

▪  freedom of expression 

▪  freedom of speech 

▪  freedom of assembly 

▪  freedom to petition the government

▪  freedom of religion 

▪  the right to bear arms 


Becoming part of the Constitution in 1791, the Bill of Rights were 10 amendments guaranteeing basic individual protections in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual such as freedom of speech and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. And it specifies that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

▼   I want to learn more about the Constitution. Where should I start?

We invite you to browse the Marx Library’s many Constitution-related resources or for additional information on the U.S. Constitution, see: 


Constitution Day (National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) ) 


Commemorating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (U.S. Dept. of Education) 


National Archives: The Constitution of the United States - A Transcription


The White House: Our Government - The Constitution


United States House of Representatives: History, Art, & Archives 


History: The United States Constitution 


Civics (History and Government) Questions for the Naturalization Test


This Congressional initiative is authorized by Section 111 of Division J of Pub. L. 108-447, the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,'' Dec. 8, 2004; 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Section 111). The Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement (Assistant Deputy Secretary) takes this action in order to implement this provision as it applies to educational institutions receiving Federal funding from the Department. Section 111(b) states "each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.'' For purposes of the Department's implementation of this requirement, "educational institutions'' includes but is not limited to "local educational agencies'' and "institutions of higher education'' receiving Federal funding from the Department. Section 111 applies to all educational institutions receiving Federal funding, not only those receiving Federal funding from the Department. However, the Department's authority only extends to those educational institutions receiving funding from the Department, and consequently the Department can only regulate with regard to those institutions. Section 111 requires that Constitution Day be held on September 17 of each year, commemorating the September 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution. However, when September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, Constitution Day shall be held during the preceding or following week. Section 111 does not authorize funds to carry out this requirement, and Section 111(d) indicates that this section shall apply "without fiscal year limitation.'' Accordingly, the Assistant Deputy Secretary intends that this notice pertain to this fiscal year and all subsequent years.