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Government, Constitution of the United States

E Pluribus Unum, Blessings of Liberty, Continental Congress, perfect Union, Articles of Confederation

The Constitution of the United States is the basis for the machinery and institutions of the U.S. government. The Constitution is the world’s oldest charter of national government in continuous use. It was written in 1787 during the Constitutional Convention, which had been convened in the midst of the political crisis that followed the American Revolution. At that time relations were tense between the states and the acting central government, the Continental Congress. The Constitution was an effort to ease those tensions and to create a single political entity from the 13 independent former colonies—the ideal expressed in the motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One). In 1788, after nine states ratified it, the Constitution became the law of the land. With 27 amendments—or additions—it has remained so.

Before the ratification of the Constitution, the states were governed under the Articles of Confederation, which served as a constitution. Under the articles, the central government was much weaker than the state governments. The men who drafted the Constitution favored a stronger central government. In the preamble—or introduction—to the Constitution, in which they stated their principles and purposes, the Founders recognized the United States as a government of the people, not of the states. They saw their purpose as forming “a more perfect Union,” which, along with promoting the “general welfare,” would secure “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

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