National Historical Publications & Records Commission

The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Adoption of the Bill of Rights

refer to caption


The Massachusetts Centinel illustration on the pillars for the Constitution.


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publisher: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Additional information at and digital edition at

A comprehensive edition of correspondence and other documents pertaining to the ratification of the Constitution and the Adoption of the Bill of Rights. The signing of the U.S. Constitution on 17 September 1787 was a milestone in creating a government for the recently independent United States. However, the act of signing itself did not create a government. Nor did it bring the new Constitution into force. The closing of the Constitutional Convention was the beginning of a long public debate during which citizens, represented in state ratifying conventions, read, debated, and ultimately voted to ratify the Constitution. The process of ratification produced an invaluable record of debates and commentaries that reveal how eighteenth-century Americans understood the Constitution and how they assessed its strengths and weaknesses. The project is comprised of a single volume, Constitutional Documents and Records, 1776-1787, and three series:

  • Ratification of the Constitution by the States
  • Commentaries on the Constitution, Public and Private
  • Adoption of the Bill of Rights

To date, the project has published 27 volumes of documents selected from the more than 18,000 that have been accessioned from several thousand libraries and private collections, as well as some 42,000 items drawn from newspapers.


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