On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, after laboring in the summer heat of Philadelphia for four long months, signed a new Constitution and ordered it to be submitted to the American people for their consideration. The work of the Convention aimed at solving one of the fundamental human problems, the problem of human government. As James Madison divined in The Federalist Papers, "what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." The challenge in framing a government in which men rule over men is this: Government must be powerful enough to protect the rights of citizens, but not so powerful that government itself becomes a threat to those rights.
The American solution to this problem — the Constitution of 1787 — represents the crowning achievement of political genius throughout all human history. The experiment in free government inaugurated during the American Founding had never been attempted. There were no examples to follow, no blueprints to copy. The American Constitution ushered into existence the first government of majority rule and minority rights — a government in which those who live under the laws consent to the laws they live under. In America, the law would rule, applying equally to those in and out of government. Through dedication to the constitutional principles and practices of freedom, America would become the most powerful and prosperous of the nations of the earth. This power and this prosperity is our rightful inheritance, to bequeath to our children, if only we remember those principles and practices, and remain vigilant in their defense. We begin by remembering the seventeenth day of September 1787, Constitution Day.