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The United States Constitution of 1787: 
A Brief History
By: Stanley L. Klos



Ratification of the U.S. Constitution  of 1787











December 7, 1787






December 12, 1787






December 18, 1787

New Jersey





January 2, 1788






January 9, 1788






February 6, 1788






April 28, 1788






May 23, 1788

South Carolina





June 21, 1788

New Hampshire





June 25, 1788






July 26, 1788

New York





November 21, 1789

North Carolina





May 29, 1790

Rhode Island





On September 13, 1788 the eighth USCA finally adopted its plan for implementing the new constitution establishing Wednesday, March 4, 1789 as the date the new constitution would go into effect:

“Whereas the Convention assembled in Philadelphia pursuant to the resolution of Congress of the 21st . of Feby . 1787 did on the 17th . of Sept of the same year report to the United States in Congress assembled a constitution for the people of the United States, whereupon Congress on the 28 of the same Sept did resolve unanimously "That the said report with the resolutions and letter accompanying the same be transmitted to the several legislatures in order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof in conformity to the resolves of the convention made and provided in that case" And whereas the constitution so reported by the Convention and by Congress transmitted to the several legislatures has been ratified in the manner therein declared to be sufficient for the establishment of the same and such ratifications duly authenticated have been received by Congress and are filed in the Office of the Secretary therefore Resolved That the first Wednesday in Jany next be the day for appointing Electors in the several states, which before the said day shall have ratified the said constitution; that the first Wednesday in feby . next be the day for the electors to assemble in their respective states and vote for a president; and that the first Wednesday in March next be the time and the present seat of Congress the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution.”


  On October 10, 1788 the USCA formed its last quorum and vacated Federal Hall (the old New York City Hall building) for renovations to accommodate the new tri-partite government.  Secretary Charles Thomson’s last entry in the USCA Journals was made at their offices in Fraunces Tavern on Monday, March 2, 1789 noting the attendance of a single delegate, “Mr. Philip Pell from New York.”     This final recording in the official USCA Journals marked the founding era end of the United States of America. Ironically, the confederation government, whose 1774 delegates first caucused together in a Philadelphia Tavern, faded away in 1789, fifteen years later, in a New York City Tavern.  


The remaining new constitution origin dates are:

•           On April 1, 1789, the United States House of Representatives achieves its first quorum

On April 6, 1789, the United States Senate achieves its first quorum and elected its officers

On April 30, 1789, George Washington is inaugurated at Federal Hall in New York City as President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.

On February 1, 1790, The Supreme Court assembles for their first case.

On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island becomes the thirteenth State ratifying the U.S. Constitution of 1787 meeting the now defunct Articles of Confederation requirement of unanimous approval.

Does Monday, September 17, 1787, mark the true birthday of the Constitution?  Does this birth year of 1787 make Arthur St. Clair the first President of the United States or does the birth and U.S. Presidency require a start date of June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth State ratifying the U.S. Constitution?   Or was it July 2, 1788 when the United States, in Congress Assembled officially adopted the ninth States’ ratification? Or was it March 4, 1789 when the new Constitution went into effect? Or was it on May 29, 1790 when Rhode Island became the thirteenth State to ratify the Constitution fulfilling the unanimous requirement placed on the United States of America under Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation?


BELOW is the complete text of the United States Constitution EXACTLY as it appeared publicly for the first time in Robert Smith’s The Evening Chronicle of September 18th, 1787 compared to the Dunlap and Claypoole’s The Pennfylvania Packet (differences in red) on September 19th, 1787.

Click to View: Page one, Page two, Page three, & Page four

DID Someone leak the Constitution ?

This "Plan of the New Federal Government," previously unrecorded, is, arguably, the first public printing of the U.S. Constitution. The folio broadsheet is dated September 17th, 1787 three times in the text and boldly marked "Philadelphia: Printed by ROBERT SMITH." This unique printing is the ultimate testament of a publisher utilizing freedom of the press privileges, soon to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Robert Smith’s folio appears to be the first public printing of the formerly secret plan to reorganize the unsuccessful Confederation Government of the United States in Congress Assembled into a true nation, the United States, governed under the Constitution.

Plan of the New Federal Government

"It was a leak. He scooped the five Philadelphia major newspapers by thirty-six hours!" says Stanley L. Klos, presidential historian and author of President Who? Forgotten Founders. Some historians maintain that this printing of the Constitution was included as an insert to Smith’s September 18th, 1787 bi-weekly newspaper, The Evening Chronicle. Klos notes, however, that "The Evening Chronicle’s proximity to Independence Hall, the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention at 4 p.m. on the 17th, and Smith's previous employment with Dunlap gave him immediate access to Dunlap's official delegate printings, with the lifting of the delegates' oath of secrecy. Additionally, Klos insists, “The degree that Smith’s ‘Plan of the New Federal Government’ matches the September 17th Constitution transmittal letter executed by George Washington, and the hastily printed offsets and misspellings found throughout Smith’s printing, indicate the broadsheet, unlike his bi-weekly “Evening Chronicle," was prepared in great haste. Whether the 17th or 18th, this struggling newspaper publisher may have trumped all five major Philadelphia newspapers that released their editions of the United States Constitution on September 19th, 1787. All of the first printings of the Constitution are rare, but this broadsheet is the only known issue of Smith's "Plan of the New Federal Government" in private or public hands.

Whatever the case, the 17th or 18th, this struggling newspaper publisher trumped all five major Philadelphia Newspapers who released their editions of the United States Constitution on September 19, 1787. Smith’s September 17-18th , 1787 broadsheet is the only known issue of "New Plan for the Federal Government" in private or public hands.


Robert Smith established The Evening Chronicle; or, Philadelphia Advertiser on February 6, 1787. It was a tri-weekly newspaper of quarto size - 8 inches by 10 inches. With the issue of May 5, 1787, the title was changed to The Evening Chronicle. On August 7, 1787 the paper became a semi-weekly, and the size was changed to folio - 11 inches by 14 inches. In late October 1787, James Prange was taken into partnership due to Smith’s growing insolvency. The paper continued to do business under the firm name Robert Smith and James Prange, publishers. We know

from its colophon that this broadsheet was printed before the merger. The last Evening Chronicle issue known to be printed is vol. 2, no. 104, dated November 7, 1787, a copy of which can be found in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society.

Very little is known about Robert Smith as he was a publisher, never a proprietor of a press. (Charles R. Hildeburn, Issues of the Press in Pennsylvania 1685 – 1784) This is why Smith and his work have been overlooked in the histories of colonial printing, which tend to focus on such men as Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Sauer and Dunlap and Claypoole, who owned or operated independent presses.

We do know that Robert Smith was first listed as a printer in 1783 at “… the Back of the Fountain Inn between Second and Third Street…” in downtown Philadelphia. On January 1, 1785 he joined Dunlap and Claypoole's Pennsylvania Packet and remained with them until late 1786. In that same year, Smith re-opened his business at the White-Horse and Fountain Inn. It wasn’t until February 1787, with the launch of the The Evening Chronicle; or, Philadelphia Advertiser that Smith moved again, “Next to the Coffee-House in Front." (A Directory of the Book-Arts and Book Trade in Philadelphia to 1820. Including Painters and Engravers) Finally, Smith relocated his business, during the Constitutional Convention, to “Below the Drawbridge, third door below Spruce, in Front and Water,” less then ½ mile from Independence Hall. This location, Smith’s Dunlap contacts, and other factors, made him the ideal candidate to quickly print the U.S. Constitution once the resolution of secrecy had ceased.

Researcher Max E. Moeller from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania notes:

"Smith presumably felt his broadsheet would benefit by a headline. But what should it read? At this stage the U.S. Constitution was a new proposal and not yet the law of the land. In other words, it was a constitution, but not yet the U.S. Constitution. In 1787 there was an existing confederate system of government, set forth in the Articles of Confederation. To avoid confusion and to simultaneously convey the import and political philosophy of the newly proposed constitution, Smith (as publisher) employed a more descriptive and informative title 'Plan of the New Federal Government.' It is certainly a very effective headline, as it properly orients new readers to what they can expect from the document."

Unfortunately, this historic scoop wasn't enough to save the fledgling paper. Smith’s Evening Chronicle went out of print in November 1787.


Brigham , Clarence S. "History and Bibliography of American Newspapers 1690 - 1820" American Antiquarian Society, Worchester, Massachusetts, 1947.

Brown , H. Glenn and Maude O, "A Directory of the Book-Arts and Book Trade in Philadelphia to 1820. Including Painters and Engravers" New York Public Library, NY 1950.

Dube, Ann Marie, "A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions": The Writing and Publicizing of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States." Independence National Historical Park, May 1996.

Hildeburn , Charles R. "Issues of The Press in Pennsylvania 1685 - 1784" Burt Franklin, NY: 1968. Two volumes

Goodman, Roy - Curator of Printed Materials and Assistant Librarian, American Philosophical Society 105 S. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3386

Klos, Stanley L., "A Scottish Born US President?", Carnegie, PA 2000.


Journals of Congress, Thursday, September 20, 1787.

Journals of Congress, Thursday, September 27, 1787.

Lefaivre-Rochester, Carole - Researcher, Friends of Franklin and Former American Philosophical Society editor.

This Broadsheet was authenticated by Stanley L. Klos –



New Federal Government

WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfec^t (U)union, eftablifh Juftice, infure domeftic (T)tranquility, provide for the common (D)defence, promote the (G)general (W)welfare, and fecure the (B)bleffings of (L)liberty to (O)ourfelves and our (P)pofterity, do ordain and eftablifh this (C)conftitution for the United States of America.

A R T I C L E I.

Sec^t. 1. ALL legiflative powers herein granted fhall be vefted in a Congrefs of the United States, which fhall confift of a Senate and Houfe of Reprefentatives.

Sec^t. 2. The Houfe of Reprefentatives fhall be compofed of members chofen every fecond year by the people of the feveral ftates, and the elec^tors in each ftate fhall have the qualifications requifite for elec^tors of the moft numerous branch of the ftate legiflature.

No perfon fhall be a representative, who fhall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been feven years a citizen of the United States, and who fhall not, when elec^ted, be an inhabitant of that ftate in which he fhall be chofen.

Reprefentatives and direc^t taxes fhall be apportioned among the feveral ftates which may be included within this Union, according to their refpec^tive numbers, which fhall be determined by adding to the whole number of free pefsons, including thofe bound to fervice for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other perfons. The ac^tual enumeration fhall be made within three years after the firft meeting of the Congrefs of the United States, and within every fubfequent term of ten years, in fuch manner as they fhall by law direct. The number of reprefentatives fhall not exceed one for every thirty thoufand, but each ftate fhall have at leaft one reprefentative ; and until fuch enumeration fhall be made, the ftate of New-Hampshire fhall be entitled to chufe three, Massachufetts eight, Rhode-Ifland and Providence Plantations one, Connec^ticut five, New-York fix, New-Jerfey four, Pennfylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland fix, Virginia ten, North-Carolina five, South-Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the reprefentation from any ftate, the Executive authority thereof fhall iffue writs of elec^tion to fill fuch vacancies.

The Houfe of Reprefentatives fhall chufe their Speaker and other officers ; and fhall have the fole power of impeachment.

Sec^t. 3. The Senate of the United States fhall be compofed of two fenators from each ftate, chofen by the legiflature thereof, for fix years ; and each fenator fhall have one vote.

Immediately after they fhall be affembled in confequence of the firft elec^tion, they fhall be divided as equally as may be into three claffes. The feats of the fenators of the firft clafs fhall be vacated at the expiration of the fecond year, of the fecond clafs at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third clafs at the expiration of the fixth year, fo that one third may be chofen every fecond year ; and if vacancies happen by refignation, or otherwife, during the recefs of the Legiflature of any ftate, the Executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legiflature, which fhall then fill fuch vacancies.

No perfon fhall be a fenator, (no comma) who fhall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who fhall not, when elec^ted, be an inhabitant of that ftate for which he fhall be chofen.

The Vice-Prefident of the United States fhall be Prefident of the fenate, but fhall have no vote, unlefs they be equally divided.

The (S)fenate fhall chufe their other officers, and alfo a Prefident pro tempore, in the abfence of the Vice-Prefident, or when he fhall exercife the office of Prefident of the United States.

The (S)fenate fhall have the fole power to try all impeachments. When fitting for that purpofe, they fhall be on oath or affirmation. When the Prefident of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice fhall preside : And no perfon fhall be convic^ted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members prefent.

Judgment in cafes of impeachment fhall not extend further than to removal from office, and difqualification to hold and en-oy (enjoy) any office of honor, truft or profit under the United States ; but the party convic^ted fhall neverthelefs be liable and fubjec^t to ndic^tment, (indic^tment) trial, judgment and punifhment, according to law.

Sec^t. 4. The times, places and manner of holding elec^tions for fenators and reprefentatives, fhall be prescribed in each ftate by the legiflature thereof ; but the Congrefs may at any time by law make or alter fuch regulations, except as to the places of chufing (S)fenators.

The Congrefs fhall affemble at leaft once in every year, and fuch meeting fhall be on the first Monday in December, unlefs they fhall by law appoint a different day.

Sec^t. 5. Each houfe fhall be the judge of the elec^tions, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each fhall conftitute a quorum to do bufinefs ; but a fmaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorifed to compel the attendance of abfent members, in fuch manner, and under fuch penalties, as each houfe may provide.

Each houfe may determine the rules of its proceedings, punifh its members for disorderly behaviour, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, (two-thirds) expel a member.

Each houfe fhall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publifh the fame, excepting fuch parts as may in their judgment require fecrecy ; and the yeas and nays of the members of either houfe on any question fhall, at the defire of one fifth of thofe prefent, be entered on the journal.

Neither houfe, during the feffion of Congrefs, fhall, without the confent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two houfes fhall be fitting.

Sec^t. 6. The fenators and reprefentatives fhall receive a compenfation for their fervices, to be afcertained by law, and paid out of the treafury of the United States. They fhall in all cafes, except treafon, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from Arreft during their attendance at the feffion of their refpective houfes, and in going to and returning from the fame ; and for any fpeech or debate in either houfe, they fhall not be queftioned in any other place.

No fenator or reprefentative fhall, during the time for which he was elec^ted, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which fhall have been created, or the emoluments whereof fhall have been encreafed during fuch time ; and no perfon holding any office under the United States, fhall be a member of either houfe during his continuance in office.

Continued Here


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