United States Constitution by Philadelphia Convention

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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The United States Constitution – 4,543 words when it was first written (including the signatures), and 7,591 inclusive of the amendments – is, word for word, one of the strongest works ever written. More than 200 years later, it is still a hotly debated topic – perhaps not as much as it was when in its infancy, but still brought up daily. While everyone reads the same words, they draw different conclusions – what, exactly, did the framers mean when they used this or that word? What, really, is the extent of this or that power? Few wish to disregard it entirely, but more than a few prefer cherry-picking aspects they agree with.

Alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, it is one of the foundational documents of the United States of America. The Bill of Rights is a part of the Constitution (the first 10 amendments, of the 27 total at this point in time) but was created and ratified after the Constitution, which is why it’s not included in the above download.

What exactly is the Constitution? It’s the supreme law of the United States of America. It defines what Americans have come to know: the three branches of government, the powers vested in them, the process for election to the federal government, the requirements for said election, the powers granted to the states, and the limits on each aspect of the government. It is a living document; it is not meant to be stagnant, but rather it ought to evolve with the times. The needs of the 19th century were different from he needs of the 18th century, when it was created; and the modern world is far different from anytime before. Change is not only allowed, but actively encouraged (albeit glacial).

To learn about how the Constitution came to be, this Library of America edition is a great start. To read more important documents integral to the United States, this is a good start.