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Drafting of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights

A guide to the records behind the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Overview of Records Created during Convention

Notes

  • by William Jackson—official recording secretary
    • Basically only recorded delegates’ votes
    • Finally printed, by order of Congress, in 1819
  • by James Madison: 
    • Took most complete set of notes, but not that complete itself (brevity of notes shows much was omitted)
    • Not published until 1840, after his death
    • Background essays on his notes:
    • Images of his original notes
      • from the Library of Congress (LC): newer images; older images Part I and Part II
      • from ConSource: pairs LC high-resolution images with corresponding plain-text, searchable transcriptions in digital library; also organized chronologically 
    • Available in multiple editions, usually by its initial published title, Journal of the Federal Convention, or as Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787; a notable online version is available from TeachingAmericanHistory.org
  • by others--some available online from Avalon Project:

Plans


Committees: Overview of committees and their activities (from TeachingAmericanHistory.org)

  • 12 committees in total
  • Committee of Detail
    • 5 man committee led by John Rutledge of SC
    • Submitted draft Aug. 6, 1787 as printed broadside
    • Reflects deliberations up to that point
  • Committee of Style
    • Submitted draft Sept. 12, 1787, at end of Convention
    • Few changes were made

Standard Collection of Constitutional Convention Records

Farrand's Records (Records of the Federal Convention of 1787)

Original Documents

Continental Congress

Continental Congress was ongoing during the Convention.

Journals of the Continental Congress

Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789

Independence Hall

Independence Hall in Philadelphia was where the Constitutional Convention took place in 1787. Google's World Wonders Project provides a multimedia overview of the historic site, including 3D models and YouTube videos, such as the one below from the National Park Service.