Timeline Description: The Constitution is the law of the land in the United States. It is the oldest written constitution still in the use in the world.
|November 11, 1620||Passengers on the Mayflower sign the Mayflower Compact.
Before leaving the ship that took them from England to America, male passengers sign the Mayflower Compact. Their promise to stay united and follow the laws of their new colony is considered the first unofficial government document in America.
|July 4, 1776||The Declaration of Independence is adopted.
With war underway, the 13 colonies officially break away from Great Britain with the Declaration of Independence. To avoid being charged with treason, signers of the document are kept secret.
|December 16, 1777||Virginia becomes the first state to ratify the Articles on Confederation.
The Articles of Confederation, which form the basis of the new government of the United States, are ratified by Virginia. Many people believe that the lack of a strong central government is a mistake but sign off on the Articles anyway because some type of government was needed.
|September 3, 1783||The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ends the Revolutionary War.
The Revolutionary War officially ends with the Treaty of Paris of 1783. Great Britain recognizes the United States of America as an independent nation.
|August 1786||Shays' Rebellion reveals the flaws in the Articles of Confederation.
After Daniel Shays leads an armed rebellion against the Massachusetts government, the need for a stronger federal government becomes more clear. Shays and his followers were angry about taxes and attempted to overthrow the state government, but the federal government had no way to provide funding to support the state troops.
|May 25, 1787||The Constitutional Convention begins in Philadelphia.
State delegates meet at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Debate over the idea of a strong central government would continue until September 17, when the Constitution is narrowly approved.
|June 21, 1788||The U.S. Constitution is ratified.
When New Hampshire becomes the 9th of the 13 states to ratify it, the Constitution becomes the law of the land. It was decided that the new government would take effect on March 4, 1789, when the U.S. Senate met for the first time.
|September 25, 1789||The Bill of Rights is approved by Congress.
Congress passes 12 amendments to the Constitution. Based in part on the English Bill of Rights, the Bill of Rights protects basic freedoms guaranteed to all American citizens, including freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. Two of the 12 amendments are not ratified.
|December 6, 1865||The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, is ratified.
After the Union defeated the Confederacy in the Civil War, the 13th Amendment is ratified and slavery is abolished in the United States. It is the first of three Reconstruction Amendments.
|July 9, 1868||The 14th Amendment is adopted.
The second Reconstruction Amendment, the 14th, is adopted into the Constitution. A primary element of the amendment is granting citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., including former slaves.
|March 3, 1870||The 15th Amendment is adopted.
The third Reconstruction Amendment, the 15th, becomes part of the Constitution. It grants voting rights to all citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity. Women are not specifically included in the amendment.
|January 16, 1919||The 18th Amendment bans the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the U.S.
After years of pressure from lobbyists and temperance groups, the 18th Amendment is ratified. Manufacturing, transporting, and selling alcoholic beverages in the U.S. are banned.
|December 5, 1933||The 21st Amendment repeals the 18th Amendment.
The 18th Amendment becomes the first and only amendment to be repealed when the 21st Amendment ends Prohibition. The 18th Amendment was extremely difficult to enforce and led to the rise in organized crime, which made millions of dollars selling alcohol.
|December 27, 1941||The Constitution arrives at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor leads to concerns that the Constitution, as well as other vital American documents, might be destroyed. The Constitution is sent to Fort Knox for safekeeping until the war is over.
|May 1992||The 27th Amendment, addressing Congressional pay raises, is ratified.
The 27th Amendment, which states that pay raises to members of Congress go into effect in the following Congressional session, is ratified. The amendment failed when it was presented as part of the Bill of Rights in 1789.