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Constitution of the United States

Constitution of the United States, supreme law of the nation. Written in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, the Constitution was approved by the 55 delegates representing the 13 original states and went into effect on March 4, 1789, after ratification by the required 9 states. The actions of the virtually autonomous states and the failure of the country's first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, convinced the delegates that a strong executive and a powerful federal government were needed if the United States were to survive as a cohesive entity. The conflicting desires of large and small states resulted in a bicameral legislature, one house based on population size, the other house with an equal number of seats for each state. Most important was the eventual recognition by all stats that a strong central government would be needed if the United States was to be more than just a loose confederation. The states allayed their fears by constructing a separation of powers to limit governmental power. In 1791 a Bill of Rights to guarantee personal freedoms was added as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Only 16 amendments have been added since 1791.

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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Constance Missal to Crete