Bicentennial of the Constitution

March 27, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


Bells pealed from the Christ Church steeple and cannon discharged from the ship Rising Sun, anchored in the Delaware River. Later that July 4th morning of 1788. in the streets of Philadelphia, the Federal Procession began. More than the 12-year-old Declaration of Independence was being celebrated that day. In the preceding months the new constitution had been ratified by Pennsylvania and nine others of the 13 states, enough to give the document life and the fledgling nation hope.

In the procession, a herald on horseback (Benjamin Franklin's son-in-law, Richard Bache) proclaimed the dawn of a new era. A float in the form of a large eagle was drawn by six horses; it bore a framed representation of the Constitution fixed upon a staff, with the cap of Liberty above and the words “The People” in gold letters below. Five-thousand Philadelphians—including more than 300 shoemakers, 100 brickmakers. 150 coach makers, 250 tailor, 125 hatters and 50 printers, booksellers and stationers—marched festively along the three-mile route. When the parade was over, 17,000 people—more than half the city—gathered at Union Green, and that evening, in honor of the festival, the Rising Sun was handsomely illuminate.

A year before, from May to September, the delegates to the Federal Convention had been laboring in the State House in Philadelphia to produce a Constitution that was “adequate to the exigencies of Government, and the preservation of the Union.” Finally, they had brought forth a document that gave Americans new confidence that the promise of the Revolution would actually be fulfilled.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Constitution and Separation of Powers
Sep. 07, 2012  Re-examining the Constitution
Jan. 29, 1988  Treaty Ratification
Mar. 27, 1987  Bicentennial of the Constitution
Jan. 31, 1986  Constitution Debate Renewed
Mar. 16, 1979  Calls for Constitutional Conventions
Jul. 04, 1976  Appraising the American Revolution
Sep. 12, 1973  Separation of Powers
Jul. 12, 1972  Treaty Ratification
Apr. 19, 1967  Foreign Policy Making and the Congress
Mar. 05, 1947  Contempt of Congress
May 10, 1945  The Tariff Power
Jul. 01, 1943  Executive Agreements
Jun. 01, 1943  Advice and Consent of the Senate
May 24, 1943  Modernization of Congress
Jan. 18, 1943  The Treaty Power
Aug. 24, 1942  Congress and the Conduct of War
May 09, 1940  Congressional Powers of Inquiry
Nov. 09, 1939  Participation by Congress in Control of Foreign Policy
Apr. 21, 1937  Revision of the Constitution
Feb. 24, 1936  Advance Opinions on Constitutional Questions
Oct. 04, 1935  Federal Powers Under the Commerce Clause
Jun. 19, 1935  The President, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court
Sep. 10, 1928  The Senate and the Multilateral Treaty
Dec. 16, 1926  The Senate's Power of Investigation
Oct. 03, 1924  Pending Proposals to Amend the Constitution
U.S. Constitution